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Corner Brook parent concerned that later school time is not workable for families of elementary-aged students

C.C. Loughlin Elementary School is shown in this May file photo.
C.C. Loughlin Elementary School is shown in this May file photo. - Star file photo

Mandy Simmonds doesn’t know how she will be able to do it.

The Corner Brook woman is the mother of a boy heading to Grade 2 at C.C Loughlin Elementary School in September and is concerned about how she and her family are supposed to adjust to the school starting classes 20 minutes later in the fall.

The changes were confirmed by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District earlier this week. Classes will be starting later at Corner Brook Regional High School and at Corner Brook Intermediate because studies have shown teenagers perform better if they can get more sleep the night before.

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Three Corner Brook schools to implement later start times in the fall

The changes will also affect C.C. Loughlin, but not any other elementary school in the city. The school board has said the elementary school’s start time change will help some bus routes from having to pick up some kids as early as 7 a.m. and will also help address the school’s ongoing issue of some other children being persistently late for school.

Simmonds has no issues with a later start time for teenagers who can get themselves to school much easier, but said it is unacceptable for that decision to have a trickle-down effect on the younger students of C.C. Loughlin who still depend on their parents and caregivers.

Simmonds has to be at work for 8 a.m. and her son can currently catch the bus at 7:45 a.m. The school’s main doors open at 8 a.m.

A 20-minute delay in the bus schedule, or when school doors open, would make her late for work every school day.

“There’s no way I can get to work for 8 o’clock and get them to school for 8:40 (a.m.),” she said. “It just does not work.”

Not all parents agree this is a bad decision. David Jones thinks the move is a fantastic idea for high school students because he believes the studies that have indicated teenagers perform better later in the day and can benefit from more sleep.

“There are people who would argue the delays should be even later than 9:20 (a.m.),” said Jones. “I guess, based on workday norms, they had to go with 9:20.”

Jones has two kids who attend C.C. Loughlin, a daughter in Grade 4 and a son in kindergarten. He has no concerns about how the changes at their school might affect them or him.

Jones has to be at work for 8:30 a.m., but is sure the school will be open in time for him to drop the kids off and he still make it to work on time.

If his daughter was to take the bus to school, she would have to get on the bus at 7:15 a.m. and endure a 40-minute ride before arriving at school. That’s because Jones lives in a neighbourhood that is outside the regular catchment of C.C. Loughlin, but his daughter attends the French immersion program offered only at that school.

He figures it will be easier for her to catch the bus if it will now be coming 20 minutes later than it does now.

Jones doesn’t buy it that some parents will be in the problematic situation of having to drop their children off before the school doors are unlocked because the parent has to get to work on time.

“You can have a knee-jerk reaction and get upset, but I’m sure schools will have things in place,” said Jones. “Most schools have a breakfast program and most breakfast school programs are 45 mins to an hour before school starts when volunteers come in and start making breakfast. I would imagine kids will still be able to get in the school by 8.”

The school district has said it may be possible for schools to open in time for parents in this situation. Simmonds said that would not resolve the issue of children then having to be at school an inordinately long time waiting for school to actually commence.

“So, he’s going to have a much longer day just to accommodate these kids that are 10 years older than him,” she said. “The better option in my mind would be to add another bus to accommodate the changing time of the junior high school. You’re impacting another school just because of a bus? That seems very unfair to me.”

Simmonds has discussed this issues with several of her friends and co-workers who share her concerns. She said many of them, like her, live outside of the normal catchment area for C.C. Loughlin but have children attending the city’s only French immersion program at the school.

She said some parents are considering taking their kids out of the French immersion program and transferring to another school simply because of the later school start time.

“I’m not willing to make that decision just yet, but I feel like I’m going to be forced to if this goes ahead,” said Simmonds.

Simmonds has emailed the administration at C.C. Loughlin about her concerns, but has also drafted a letter she intends to send to the school district as it is that entity, and not the school, that makes the decisions regarding the start time.

“I’m usually one who just goes with change and figures something out, but I don’t have anything to figure out with this,” she said. “I had to speak out and I really hope they reconsider this because I don’t think they consulted parents at all.”

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