Bradley Middle mom fights for earlier school day
by Staff Writer
A group of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ parents, including a Bradley Middle School mom, have come together to ask the district to push back the school day for 15 middle schools.
Last year, to cut down on transportation costs, the school district pushed the start time to 9:15 a.m. for several middle schools, including Bailey, J.M. Alexander and Bradley middles. Now, halfway through the first year with the new schedule, Lissiah Taylor-Hundley, has joined with a group of concerned parents from the district – the Bell Schedule Committee – to petition the district to change the schedule back. The late school day, they say, causes learning and behavioral problems.
“For one, just from listening to student feedback, by 4:15 p.m. when school lets out, students are hungry because they ate lunch much earlier during the day,” said Taylor-Hundley, whose two children attend Bradley Middle and Hopewell High schools. “Children have short attention spans, so by the end of the day classes are much rowdier.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released next school year’s bell schedule last week, and it shows no changes to the late start times approved last year. The late start time allows bus drivers to pick up elementary or high school students before 7:15 a.m. and come back for a second round of middle school pickups before 9:15 a.m., putting fewer buses on the road.
Prior to the bell schedule changes, all three area middle schools began the day at 8:45 a.m. and dismissed at 3:45 p.m.
Stacy Sneed, a spokeswoman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said there is no room in next year’s operating budget to set the school day back. The late middle school start time saves the district about $624,000, she said.
“Right now, the schedule is set in stone,” Snead said.
However, if financial conditions improve for the 2013-14 school year, the district could opt to revert back to the old schedule during next year’s budget planning sessions.
According to Taylor-Hundley, the Bell Schedule Committee was formed after parents gave a survey to students, teachers and parents at Community House Middle School in south Charlotte, which showed strong discontent with the bell schedule. The committee then gave the survey to 10 of the 15 schools with late start times, and results revealed that 81 percent of teachers feel that classroom productivity has declined, and 47 percent would, given the opportunity, consider transferring to a school with an earlier bell schedule, if changes do not happen.
The schedule also causes problems outside the classroom, Taylor-Hundley said, because not all middle schoolers can be relied on to lock up their houses and get to the bus stop on time after parents have left for work in the morning, forcing mom or dad to adjust their work schedules.
The 4:15 p.m. dismissal time also causes after school extracurricular activities and sports practices to end later in the evening.
“Now, in the evening, you have students who aren’t able to attend extracurricular activities,” Taylor-Hundley said. “With practices going so late, I know people who have chosen to not let their children participate in middle school sports.”
Although the Bell Schedule Committee won’t see any schedule changes for the upcoming school year, members said it will continue to lobby the district for changes for the 2013-2014 school year. Taylor-Hundley said that while her son will leave Bradley Middle for Hopewell High next year, she hopes to continue to be a voice for concerned parents.
“To be truthful, my son is in eighth grade and the bell schedule will not affect him next year,” she said. “But there are still parents who are still hesitant to speak out against CMS and have selected parent advocates to be their voice. I hope to help parents who are still in the same situation next year.”
Want to learn more?
To see a PowerPoint presentation the Bell Schedule Committee presented to the school board earlier this month, along with the survey results, go online to www.huntersvilleherald.com