Fairfax County Public Schools parents are unhappy with the proposed changes to the FCPS 2012-2013 bell schedule which will change more than 60 schools’ start and end times.
During a meeting Monday night at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax, with Braddock District School Board representative Megan McLaughlin and Dean Tisdadt, FCPS chief operating officer and head of facilities and transportation services, parents listed a variety of reasons they're opposed to the new bell schedules. Laurel Ridge has seen a change in their bell schedule twice in the last six years and parents are frustrated that the start time will once again be pushed back from 8:50 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.
Although the meeting was largely about Laurel Ridge and parents of students in the Robinson Secondary School pyramid, Bonnie Brae ES, Fairview Elementary School, Oak View Elementary School, Terra Centre Elementary School and Robinson Secondary School, the issues raised are similar to previous concerns raised by FCPS parents.
Some parents argued that a change in schedule would:
- have a negative impact on students, especially those with special needs who are already following a strict daily schedule
- interfere with parent work schedules, including those who are single parents or don’t have much flexibility in their schedules
- and add undue burdens to an already overexerted teaching staff.
One of the teachers in attendance argued that the change in scheduling at Laurel Ridge would make it difficult for teachers to make it to required certification classes since they would have to stay at school later.
“We start high schools too early. We start elementary schools too late. I would never try to argue to the contrary,” said Tisdadt. “The reality is that we created a bell schedule many years ago that’s incredibly efficient to use the buses for multiple runs and lower the cost of transportation.”
If the proposed bell schedule is approved, some schools will see a change from 20-40 minutes in their schedules.
According to Tisdadt, 65 elementary schools in the county start after 9 in the morning and 36 schools start at 9:15 a.m. “That’s too late,” he said.
However, Tisdadt acknowledged that the two-hour window FCPS has to transport students to school (compared to the compressed windows of other schools in the country) allow FCPS to consolidate the number of buses traveling in neighborhoods. Part of the Transportation Department’s goal with the change to the bell schedule was to add resources to accommodate the addition of Mason Crest Elementary School in Annandale, Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church and South County Middle School in Lorton without adding additional resources and also to fix the late bus arrival problems where necessary without more buses.
“Are we going to penalize all of us because one or two buses of kids weren’t in the door 10 minutes before the start time?” asked one parent.
“A lot of people think I’m adverse to [changing the bell schedule], but the truth is that I’m not. I just haven’t been able to figure it out,” Tisdadt said about finding a solution to please everyone.
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, Tisdadt told parents that he would respond to their requests for further investigation into a solution to bell schedule problems by Friday.