The New JPPSS School Times are Wrecking My World {One Mom’s Opinion}

Where Did All of This Come From?

Jefferson Parish announced last week that they will be flip-flopping start times for elementary and high school students to honor research which supports success for adolescents starting school later in the morning. (You can check out the research in Tara’s article: link here.) I completely get this and remember being a high school student wishing there was more time to sleep in after long, late nights of homework and writing papers. I fully support changes that help high school students manage their curriculum and schedules in order to prosper. I have also heard some rebuttals about the ability/availability of high school students to get to after-school jobs or getting younger siblings off of the bus, which I understand but can’t really speak to since I don’t have children that age.

Additionally, the school board mentioned a parent survey earlier this year from which they gathered input. As far as I can recall from the survey, questions regarding the school calendar (i.e., fall break vs. Thanksgiving break) were the content of the poll. I am not sure where the “parent input” came from, but I do know that about 2,000 parents signed a poll on change.org last week, so clearly those parents weren’t polled on the matter.

Making it All Work

Personally, I understand that these changes do work for some families. For us, we have struggled with so much change finishing out the 2019-2020 school year that this change stings extra hard. Admittedly, our household already has a pretty complicated, near comical, schedule during the school year. We are a blended family and have three children at different schools. We share responsibilities with their other parents, but to say that it’s often a juggling act is a gross understatement. We do the best we can, like most moms and dads, but our work schedules can be difficult to maneuver while we also attempt at least one or two extra-curricular activities per week for each child. We are also adding a fourth child to our family this fall, and incorporating another drop off time to childcare before the new 7:20 elementary school start time sounds like a mountain I just don’t know how to climb.

When I first heard the news about a week ago, I sat alone and cried. Like many moms, I am exhausted and desperate for “normalcy” for my children and my family. I called my best friends and just vented endlessly. Why now? Why put us all through more challenges amidst the uncertainty of the upcoming 2020-2021 school year?

Wakey Wake Eggs and Bakey

Just kidding – there will be no breakfast cooked at our house. The earlier start times (my daughters will have to be at school between 6:50 and 7:20 am) means that they will have to wake up around 5:30 am and eat something quickly (and less messy hopefully) in the car. I worry for their morning routines and for the daily struggle that exists with little ones who are groggy and moody so early in the morning. I also think about the bus riders who will have to load their buses up to an hour before school starts, which means a bus load time of around 6:15 – 6:20 am. This sounds unthinkable, but that’s my own opinion. Those children will also have to awake around 5:30 am.

And the flip side: I worry even more about their afternoon routines. As a working mom, I utilize the aftercare system at our school. I have always been thankful for the staff and teachers who are able to care for my children for the hour and a half to two hours after school before I am able to arrive after work. With the new end time (2:20 pm at our school), my kids will be in at least three hours of aftercare, with some days closer to four. That’s a really long time! Not to mention, they will be utterly exhausted from being at their school for a full 10 hours in a day. I can’t even picture it right now, and it’s very upsetting to me.

So What Now?

There are several other changes that JPPSS has announced that really bother me (the removal of the foreign language program from our school). I, personally, have emailed several school board members and the superintendent to voice these same concerns. I was contacted back saying that “The administration has sent out surveys and spoken to parents through community chats and the parent councils and many parents have asked for this change… It was presented in February and voted in favor of unanimously by the board in March.” I don’t know who is serving on these parent councils, but this is the first I’ve heard of them. I worry about the validity of these councils being that so many parents are upset. Additionally, I wish I knew the school board was covering this topic in February/March (weren’t we on the brink of coronavirus chaos at that time????) so that questions and concerns could have been broached before the big vote.

I may not understand all the nuances of the school board’s decision or the voting process, but I don’t understand why all children in the parish can’t be educated at the later start time (and bus schedules don’t seem compelling enough of a reason for me, either). If you would like to share your opinion about the new school time changes, please contact your school board representatives or consider attending the next school board meeting:

According to the newly started Facebook Group: Parents against the JPPSS time changes, the next JPPSS board meeting will be in person on June 3rd at 6:00 pm at the Administration Building (501 Manhattan Blvd. Harvey, LA). Some details:

In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all attendees must wear a face covering and must submit to a temperature check. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4° or greater, will not be allowed to enter. Additionally, in an effort to adhere to the 6ft distancing guidance, the capacity of the main board room will be limited. Overflow rooms will be available until capacity is reached. In all waiting areas the 6-foot social distancing rule must be maintained. Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting must complete a speaker card and be submitted prior to 6:00 p.m. Cards will be provided at the meeting.

Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneurial mom, Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining an active extracurricular life including teaching dance, volunteering, and instructing a digital marketing class at UNO. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, and step-son Luke. With a growing family (baby number 4 is on the way this summer) and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next get-away with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very-funny people. You can learn more about her here.

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