Since early September, both buses and cars have lined up between WHS and WMS around 8:30 a.m., unloading groups of middle and high schoolers at the start of the school day.
While this new start time has helped students be better rested than they were last year, it has also introduced several logistical challenges.
According to a September 2018 Wildcat Tracks poll of over 70 WHS students of all grades, a majority of students have a positive opinion of the new start time. 93% of students approve of the new start time and 90% approve of the schedule change, which affects the length of classes and meeting times of activity and advisory blocks.
“I like [the new start time] because it lets me sleep more so I can focus better in class. The blocks are a little shorter so you don’t have to sit still for that long,” sophomore Luke Fournier said.
Teachers also noted many benefits of the later start time. History teacher Kim Young said that while it’s too early to judge the policy’s full impact, the new schedule has positively impacted her morning students while energizing her afternoon students.
“I think there are both positives and negatives, so I’m not ready to make my final judgement. In general, I find that my students in first block are happier and more awake, and my last block classes seem to have even more energy than in the past,” Young said.
However, some students noted some challenges that come with this schedule change. These issues included shorter classes, activity blocks taking place less frequently, and difficulty for parents to drop their kids off just before their workday starts.
“One of the only cons to increased sleep is the fact that we have less time to spend in AP classes,” junior Katie Huang said.
Logistical issues have also been challenging students’ ability to get to school on time. In the first few weeks of school, buses frequently arrived late. According to another September 2018 Wildcat Tracks poll of 157 students, 71 students reported that they ride the bus to school, of which 89% responded that they were late at least once before September 24.
One such student is junior Thomas Piccione, whose bus was frequently delayed in early September.
“I like [the new start time], except my bus hasn’t shown up at all before school has started. It’s always shown up at 8:45 a.m. or later and that’s kind of impractical,” Piccione said.
Though these logistical issues have significantly affected WHS students who live in Weston, a greater impact has been on METCO students who commute from Boston every day. Sophomore Dellena Bereket said that the bus schedule and traffic after school has made it more difficult for her to participate in certain clubs and extracurricular activities.
“Traffic takes a big toll on when I can come to school. I participate in a lot of programs in Boston, such as an internship at a hospital,” Bereket said. “I’m supposed to be there at 3:30 p.m., but because I’m a METCO student and I don’t go to school in Boston, they make an exception for me and I used to be able to get there closer to 4:00 p.m. Now we’re stuck in the middle of traffic and I don’t tend to get there until much later, and it’s affecting my performance.”
Weston METCO director La Toya Rivers said that a major scheduling challenge for METCO students has been the introduction of W block on Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. On this day, the bus picks up METCO students earlier so that they can get to school by 7:30 a.m to participate in W block.
“For METCO students, it’s an ‘all-or-nothing’ situation to attend W block unless they drive or are dropped off by a parent. There’s been confusion since they need to know they have one schedule for four days of the week and another schedule on Thursdays,” Rivers said.
Junior Ashley McCoy, who spends a considerable amount of time on the bus every morning, said that allowing students to come in before 8:30 a.m. every day could help many students get more sleep. This would make it easier for parents to drop their kids off and still get to work on time.
“I feel that if the school was open earlier, that would be a lot better for me. I could still get driven to school and wait at school and do homework there, rather than sit on the bus where I can’t be productive,” McCoy said.
While students are generally prohibited from entering school before 8:30 a.m., a new Before School Program lets students use the middle school gym between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. However, this program is only available for students in grades 6-10 and has an average cost of $1,080 per semester per student, according to an email sent to students and parents on August 29.
School committee member John Henry explained that the cost structure was necessary to pay the learning assistants who supervise students in the program.
“We wanted it to be supervised appropriately. We also wanted to be able to know who was coming, and having the program be paid made it easier to track that,” Henry said. “We tried to keep the cost relatively low at about $12 a day, which is less than you could get a babysitter for for that amount of time.”
Henry explained that closing both schools before 8:30 a.m. allows teachers to better meet in teams. According to science teacher Christine Chiodo, this extra time significantly aids teachers in preparing for classes.
“I have been able to get together with my colleagues much more easily to prepare a curriculum,” Chiodo said.
Though logistical issues have affected diverse groups in different parts of their day, the delayed start time is favorable to an overwhelming majority of students and faculty.