NEWBURYPORT — Parents reacted angrily earlier this month after receiving a notice from Superintendent Susan Viccaro informing them of changes to next year’s arrival and dismissal times for the new K-3 Bresnahan School and the Nock-Molin Middle School.
In response to their concerns, the superintendent has agreed to meet with parents for a question-and-answer session tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Nock-Molin School library.
The new Bresnahan is under construction and is set to open next fall, while the Nock-Molin is under renovation.
Parents who will have children attending those schools next year say they were caught off guard by the new schedule. They say they were never involved in the discussion and that the decision was made without any input from them.
They also said the changes will cause transportation inconveniences and will have an adverse impact on working parents and families who have more than one child in the school system.
As a reaction to the decision, a group of parents launched a Facebook page, “Port Parents,” where they encouraged a strong public turnout at last week’s regularly scheduled School Committee meeting. That meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.
A response from Mayor Donna Holaday, who chairs the School Committee, was also posted on the Facebook page and discussed the reasons for the scheduling changes. They included safety issues surrounding pickup and dropoff of students and sensitivity to the environmental and traffic-impact concerns of the surrounding neighborhood.
Parent Derek Hartford said he is hoping to get a good turnout of parents at tomorrow’s meeting with Viccaro.
“Those that cannot attend should contact the superintendent, mayor and School Committee to voice their concerns,” he said, adding that the issue isn’t likely to get resolved at Tuesday’s session, but being able to communicate in person with the superintendent is a step in the right direction.
“Although no final answer can be expected out of one meeting, this is an indication that Superintendent Viccaro will be considering the burden placed on a number of Newburyport families with the new schedule,” Hartford said. “We hope that future decisions by the superintendent, that have such a widespread effect on families, will involve input by parents prior to decisions being made.”
In her notice alerting parents of the changes, Viccaro said school administrators, the mayor and Salter Bus Company were involved in the decision-making process and considered numerous factors, including state safety requirements, in preparing the new schedules.
The time between arrivals and dismissals is a major sticking point. Preschool students at Bresnahan are set to arrive at 9 a.m. and depart at 3:30 p.m., while full-time kindergarten to grade 3 students are scheduled for an 8:45 a.m. arrival and 3:15 p.m. departure — a difference of 15 minutes. At Nock-Molin, there is a 40-minute window. The school day for upper elementary students will run from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and the middle school students will arrive at 7:20 a.m. and depart at 1:50 p.m.