22 Aug 2014
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School Time Change Options Shake Montville Budget Process

Board considers three proposals for rearranging times of all district schools.

School Time Change Options Shake Montville Budget Process

Upon the request of Montville Township Board of Education members, Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried presented two more options Tueday for rearranging times at district schools to shorten the Robert R. Lazar Middle School day.

Board members have been discussing shortening the Lazar day for more than a year based on recommendations of parents so that the students could have more time after school to get their homework done and participate in extra-curricular activities without staying up too late. Currently, students dismiss at 3:40 p.m. from Lazar.

The time change proposals need to be taken under consideration as part of the budget process because of the costs associated with additional buses required under new times. The first proposal, which the majority of board members seemed to favor, would cost approximately $125,000 which would be added to the budget. With the $68,239,911 preliminary budget approved Tuesday night, which came in under the 2 percent spending increase cap, taxes on the average assessed home in Montville would increase by approximately $89.68 in the 2013-14 school year.

Under the first proposal, both the high school school day and Lazar school day would each be reduced by five minutes, elementary schools would remain as is but Lazar would dismiss at 3:15 p.m. Elementary schools would start at 8:10 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m.; the high school would start at 7:25 a.m. and dismiss at 2:10 p.m. and Lazar would start at 8:30 a.m. and dismiss at 3:15 p.m. This would require between four and five additional buses.

The second proposal has the length of the elementary school remaining the same, with Lazar and the high school still reduced by five minutes, but the elementary schools beginning at 8:50 a.m. and dismissing at 3:25 p.m. and Lazar dismissing at 2:45 p.m. The high school would dismiss at 2:10 p.m. and the proposal would require a minimum of 10 buses at a cost of at least $250,000.

Under the third proposal, which some board members also favored, Lazar would dismiss at 2:45 p.m., elementary schools would start at 9:05 a.m. and dismiss at 3:40 p.m. and the high school would dismiss at 2:10 p.m. Both the high school and Lazar school days would be reduced by five minutes. The third proposal would cost at least $100,000 with the need for at least four buses.

Board members and parents seemed mixed on which proposal was best for the district. Member John Morella said he did not think the impact of the first proposal, ending the Lazar school day 25 minutes earlier, was significant enough.

"Twenty five minutes are not going to help," he said.

Board Member Carmela Novi said she thought that the third proposal could create more issues for other parents and students.

"I'm sympathetic of the Lazar students," she said. "I'm not sure that proposal 3 doesn't just dump a whole new set of problems on the younger kids."

Both Jackie Ritschel and Board President Dr. Karen Cortellino said they would prefer to see the high school day begin later rather than earlier, but Cortellino said she preferred the first proposal as well.

Pine Brook resident Heidi Calcagno said she was concerned about the elementary start time included in the third proposal. 

"A 9:05 start time is a nightmare for working parents," she said.

When asked which option he thought would be best for the district, Fried said that ultimately he felt the first proposal would be best, even with only a 25-minute difference.

"I think it's a better step for us now and perhaps moving us toward a better step in the future," he said.

None of the options were chosen yet by the board but the next budget presentation, in which the school times will continue to be discussed, will be held on March 21 at 7 p.m. at Montville Township High School.

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