New school start times frustrate some parents

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By Brian Slattery

Flipping elementary schools from early to late start times created a need for before-school care programs for working parents.

Jennifer Jordan, a social services director at a nursing/rehabilitation facility, has a daughter going into second grade at Bolivia Elementary School.

When the elementary schools opened early, at 7:50 a.m. last year, she cold drop off her daughter and get to work by 8:30 a.m.

But switching the elementary schools to a start time of 8:45 a.m. made her morning schedule impossible.

She thought she had an answer by putting her child into the Communities In Schools before-school program so she could get to her job in Wilmington.

When she received a flyer from the school with the price and location for the before school program, she thought it was a done deal and she was the first to sign her daughter up.

But she found out in the summer there was not enough participation at Bolivia Elementary to start a program, so she had to scramble to find a way to get her daughter to school.

“When CIS offered the program, they should have said it would be based on the number who register. I think it was misleading,” she said.

For other parents, the situation could make an obstacle course of the morning school drop-off and commute to work. For Jordan, it led to her changing jobs.

Jordan felt she was incredibly fortunate because there are not a lot of jobs available in Bolivia, especially one identical to her old job.

“It was perfect timing. There was an opening, I spoke to the right people and my 30-day notice lined up with the start of school,” she said.

Jordan is also able to help a friend by dropping off her elementary school-aged child.

But her husband, Chris, and his ex-wife are still working out what they will do for before-school care for their daughter.

Jordan does not feel enough notifications about the new start times have been made.

“I think there are still school parents that do not know the (new) school start time,” she said.

Kathy Smith, Communities in Schools director, said CIS did not receive enough responses for programs at only three elementary schools: Bolivia, Supply and Union.

Belville, Lincoln, Southport, Town Creek, Jessie Mae and Virginia Williamson Elementary schools will have before- and after-school programs.

“We had pre-registration from June 10 to July 10 to give us an indication of need — if we would go forward with hiring staff and setting up the programs,” Smith said.

Smith said it seemed all parents were aware of the need to register for a program and CIS received strong responses at schools with the largest number of children, like Belville and Southport elementary schools.

“We worked closely with the schools to get the word out through phone calls, media, the school websites. Flyers went home with every child before school let out. We contacted all the parents we worked with in the past,” Smith said.“I feel we’ve done everything we could to get the word out. Unfortunately, not everyone reads the paper or even watches television.”

Jordan said she first learned of it from the Boiling Spring Community Center daycare where her daughter went to the after school-program last year. She said she didn’t get a message from the school until they received an auto-call message over the summer.

In an interview in June, Smith said CIS was promoting the registration period because they wanted to avoid having no one sign up and find out later parents need the program.

While she is sympathetic to their situation, Smith said CIS would have to depend on what the pre-registration identified for before- and after-school care needs.

“Unfortunately now, with school around the corner, parent are getting serious about school,” Smith said. “My suggestion is to talk with the principal or assistant principal. They might be able to accommodate them with transportation to a CIS site or they might be able to transfer the student, but that is more difficult. But schools want to work with the families the best they can.”

Smith said if the schools where there aren’t before- and after-school programs ask for assistance, CIS will do what it can.

She said CIS offers names of daycare centers in areas where there is no CIS program.

The before-school programs CIS offers run from 7 a.m. until school starts at 8:45 a.m.

The before-school programs will provide a place for children to come in and eat breakfast, either brought from home or provided by the school, participate in games and socialization, allow time to finish homework and prepare for the day.

CIS also offers after-school programs from the end of the school day until 6 p.m.

The after-school care program offers programs including homework assistance, recreation and enrichment time.

Jordan said the switch in school start times affected her family’s morning and afternoon routines. She and her husband also volunteer to coach her daughter’s recreation league soccer team in Southport. To deal with the later school hours, they switched soccer practice times from middle afternoon to 6:15 p.m.


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.