School start times blasted by SD&G councillors

Williamstown Public School on County Road 17 in South Glengarry, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G – A presentation to SD&G county council Monday on a fight against remote learning turned to Upper Canada District School Board officials being called on the carpet for school start times.

The “unified bell times” policy will see high school students start their day at 8 a.m. while elementary students will start between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., starting in September.

Coun. Lyle Warden (South Glengarry) found it funny there’s extensive consultation on fighting online learning and asked “where was the consultation” on the start of the school day?

Warden drew attention to schools in Iroquois and Williamstown where high school and public schools are in the same area or building. “Many parents have children in both schools so basically you’re forcing them to have a wider window at the beginning of the day and a shorter window at the end of the day where they could be at work.”

“I just find that there’s no consultation done. The decision was made and I don’t think you guys are taking any considerations about the impact of that. My 13-year-old daughter doesn’t like to get up early and instead of getting up at 7:45 a.m. she’s going to have to get up at 6:30 a.m. and it’s going to be a struggle,” Warden said.

Board chairman John McAllister says there’s been consultation over three years and the changes were made to “streamline operations” and “save money.” McAllister says there are a “few bugs” they are working on but maintains there has been “ongoing consultation with parents.”

Warden argued that making the school day earlier will result in a “huge pushback” and see more students do their schooling from home – exactly what the school board doesn’t want to see happen.

Education Director Stephen Sliwa seemed to discount the concern saying the issue of school start times would “pale in comparison” to what they came to talk to council about Monday – the threat of remote learning.

Warden asked for a report on the consultation. “I can tell you, sir, in my community, there’s been huge pushback since I received the notice. I think we can do better.”

Coun. Allan Armstrong (North Dundas) supported Warden’s position as “an attentive parent” and supported the recommendation to see the consultation.

Coun. Tony Fraser (North Dundas) didn’t recall any consultation on school start times either at a township or county council meeting. “That’s a pretty big consultation. That’s a pretty big event to take place disturbing every aspect of our community and I don’t recall that information.”

McAllister promised to share the consultation information with Coun. Lyle Warden.

As for the school board’s fight against the province making remote learning permanent, county council agreed to a letter of support, which will go to Premier Doug Ford, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and MPP Jim McDonell.