To the Editor:

On Dec. 30, The BReeze reported on the Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education’s continued consideration of delayed school start times for S.Y. 2020 implementation. As I read details pertaining to the way in which BOE members view the depth and pace of the BOE’s review process, I could not help but realize the critical importance of this year for the Bridgewater-Raritan community.

As evident in the Dec. 17 BOE meeting and hundreds of community comments I have read online, there is serious concern about the proposition of delaying school start times without a robust and transparent deliberative process. While I sincerely admire the insistence of board members Hurley, Malek and Mead on engaging in a thorough review of all the relevant evidence before making a decision of such great importance, it seems as though their voices are being ignored by the BRRSD leadership and their BOE colleagues.

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Whether it is the superintendent's continued insistence on a start time delay despite community objections, or board member AJ Joshi’s failure to maintain his campaign promise to “keep a keen eye toward fiscal responsibility,” any resistance to start time delay faces a serious uphill battle.
In fact, even in spite of similar commitments by other BOE members to remain cognizant of the immense finances under the BOE’s control (over $150,000,000), the majority of the BRRSD BOE has yet to inquire about the long-term financial impacts of a delay on local business supply chains, working high school students, familial childcare, commuting teachers or the district budget.

With the direction of superintendent Russell Lazovick, the BOE has championed its leadership on delayed start times while ignoring numerous other concerns from residents about the educational and logistical effects of delayed school start times. Under immense pressure from a local chapter of School Start Later, Inc. (SSL), the BOE has proceeded under the guise of public town halls and information sessions, creating a false impression of diligence and thoughtfulness.

As these groups paint a dystopic image of students suddenly unable to cope with current start times, the BOE and SSL willfully ignore the fact that the scientific evidence which they espouse is not meant to be reviewed in a vacuum. Although the BOE and SSL have yet to meaningfully acknowledge that the numerous impacts of delayed school start times may have adversely affected students and their families, these challenges are still top-of-mind for supporters of the STOP THE BOARD movement.

While not meant to be an exhaustive list, some of the most serious ramifications of this decision regard:

  1. Ability of experienced teachers to continue teaching in the district
  2. Amount of class time that will be missed by athletes traveling to out-of-town competitions
  3. Real cost of delay proposals and where funding would be re-routed from
  4. Increased local traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours (i.e. Rt. 22, Rt. 202/206, Garretson Rd., Commons Way, etc.)
  5. Community sports organizations that utilize district facilities (i.e. Bridgewater Soccer Association)
  6. Local business which employ high school students, and their supply chains
  7. Primary/Intermediate school programs staffed by high school students (i.e. BR Cares)
  8. BRHS students co-enrolled in courses at the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School

If the BOE and Superintendent succumb to the directives of a vocal few and the idealization of lofty accolades from (inter)national organizations lobbying for delayed start times, Bridgewater and Raritan face a dangerously uncertain future.

No matter what decision is made, this year will be one of reckoning for the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.

Dennis Wieboldt, Bridgewater

Please consider attending the BOE meetings on January 6 and January 21 at 7:30 PM in the BRHS cafeteria to voice your concerns and STOP THE BOARD from making a rushed, poorly-informed decision on delaying school start times.