BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan board of education is still debating the issue of changing school starting times in the district, although a final decision has not yet been made.
The subject, which has been discussed at board meetings for nearly the entire calendar year, was first brought up at the annual “State of The District” address delivered by Superintendent Russell Lazovick. A parent asked Lazovick what the timeframe is for possibly changing school start times, and Lazovick said the projected high school starting time is 8:30 a.m.
“It’s a significant change for us,” said the superintendent.
He added that he couldn’t answer the question beyond the high school, and that the middle school will not be done until the high school is set.
Parent Jessica Levitt, who has brought the start time issue before the school board on a number of occasions, then asked how the board would inform the public if and when start times are changed. Lazovick said there would be an area reserved on the district’s website (www.brrsd.org) for that matter.
“Everything will be made available,” he added. “It’s going to be a quick turnaround for this conversation.”
Another parent said that the school board making a decision on start times by the end of the calendar year seems “kind of quick.”
Lazovick replied that the urgency is about doing what is best for the district’s students. He also said that changes to the start time involve many moving pieces, including consulting research from medical professionals.
“There will be a cost to this,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult conversation.”
He also said that the real story will be the impact on Bridgewater-Raritan’s students. He added that other school districts have already figured out the start time situation, with no negative impact on their students.
The earliest possible option locally is to have something in place by September 2020.
Lazovick said at the Sept. 10 board of education meeting that the school board as a whole will discuss the matter over the next eight weeks, and that all the research the board utilizes will be made available to the public as well, ostensibly through the district website.
A public forum is also expected to be held in October, and streamed live via the web.
“It will be a breakdown of what the options are,” he said of the forum.
If the board finally does decide to make changes, he said they could be implemented as early as next September.
Levitt thanked Lazovick for his words at the State of the District address, and said that the start times will be a “priority” in the coming weeks. According to research, she concurred that the earliest healthy start time for students is 8:30 a.m.
“There’s no question of if it will benefit the kids,” she said.
Levitt also agreed that the focus should be on what is best for the students, but added that making a change shouldn’t be delayed or ignored. She said with two children of her own in the district, she doesn’t want them to wait an entire year for the impact of such a change, and asked the board what she could expect in the next two weeks.
Parent Lynn Taylor said she also feels strongly about the school start times, with three children in the district. She said that with the current early start times, one of her children is on a school bus for an hour in the mornings before even getting to school, and said that is “unacceptable” to her.
“We’re moving in the wrong direction, if we don’t make changes,” she said, adding that she hopes the board will move quickly on the matter.