BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Long Island City parents are grappling with a back-to-school surprise.
Families with children in PS 78 received a letter informing them that the school would be shifting its starting and closing hours 40 minutes earlier. Grades kindergarten through seven will now arrive at 8 a.m. and dismiss at 2:20 p.m.
The shift is a result of a new United Federation of Teachers contract that creates more time for professional development and parent engagement.
According to DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield, the total instructional time students receive and the time a teacher works remain the same.
“We encourage principals to work closely with their entire school community, including teachers, parents and administrators, to establish the parameters for how to best structure the school day,” Hartfield added.
Many parents, however, are frustrated with the lack of parent input in the decision making process.
“We are deeply saddened by the fact that this decision was not subject to a discussion inviting parent feedback. Many in our community believe that the time change does not benefit the children and parents,” the petition states.
“I felt mad about that. I was so angry,” said Anjanie Narine, whose daughter attends third grade at PS 78. “It felt like a betrayal.”
Lakshmi Reddy, a member of the School Leadership Team, has been acting as a liaison between parents and school administrators. Reddy said she learned from conversations with Principal Louis Pavone that the DOE gave PS 78 a range of starting hours to choose from – 8 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. – at the tail end of the 2013-2014 academic year.
Pavone could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Among parents’ main concerns with the new schedule is lost time with their children.
“I work all day,” Narine said. “I have a certain amount of time from when I get home to when [my daughter] goes to bed. That was already two hours, and now we’re looking at an hour and 20 minutes, so it’s a significant amount.”
While losing personal time with her daughter, Narine said she will also be paying for extra daycare, now that her daughter will be coming home earlier from school.
“I hope at the very least the school changes it to 8:20-2:40 [as a result of the petition]. I feel like that would be somewhat of a compromise,” Narine said.
The petition had garnered 160 signatures as of press time.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.