Jefferson Parish parents call for transparency after learning about new upcoming school times

Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 5:26 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - The upcoming school year brings many changes. One change Jefferson Parish parents and teachers did not expect, is new start times.

Parents say they just learned Friday from Jefferson Parish Schools that elementary schools will start earlier, while high schools will start later this upcoming school year.

"I was never questioned. The over 1,900 parents that signed my petition have never been asked either in the survey that was put out in February," Amber Menendez said.

"The start time change was never in any of those surveys," Jennifer Mitchell said.

Working parents say they’re worried for the well-being of their children with the new schedule.

“They’re getting out an hour earlier. So, for most working families, they’re going to be in after care for an hour earlier. I’m not able to get my son until after 5 p.m. Some parents, it’s after 5 p.m, almost 6 p.m, so that means our kids are going to be sitting in school for ten plus hours,” Menendez said.

"My children, being six and eight years old won't have enough sleep to perform their best during school and then as working parents, me and my husband both work, not being able to pick them up until 5:30, 5:45," Mitchell said.

Menendez started a petition against the changes the day they were announced, which quickly gathered signatures.

"I think this is a huge issue for very many working families, and that we should be heard," Menendez said.

Not only are parents voicing concerns, one teacher said he's frustrated with the lack of transparency.

"The way they did it, on the last day of school, before holiday weekend, 5 p.m. They just released these drastic changes," Bonura said.

He said the notice came after the deadline for teachers to transfer positions and schools.

“I have two small children in the Jefferson Parish public schools also. Bringing them to school and going to my school, I probably pass 20 schools that would work better with my schedule, and I was given no opportunity as a professional to make that decision,” Bonura said.

A Jefferson Parish Schools spokesperson sent this statement explaining the changes:

"Changes always come with challenges, especially in a school system with 51,000 students and 7,000 employees. The district is adjusting school times in an effort to improve student outcomes and make things easier on many of our working families.

Research shows that high school students perform better when schools start later (American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). We've also heard from many working families with elementary age children that starting schools earlier would make it easier for them to get their kids to school before going to work. This has been a common issue we've heard from families over the past two years at our coffee chats, town halls, community events, and parent councils.

In addition to the benefit to kids and families, the school time changes were included in the 2020 Infrastructure and Efficiency plan to help us close a $16 million budget gap. The new school times will allow for more efficient use of our buses and routes. Due to the change we will save an estimated $475,000. Due to these types of efficiencies, we were able to balance our budget while maintaining educator jobs. This is especially important now that COVID-19 has stalled our economy and created significant revenue declines."

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