- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - While some parents and school employees still are divided over the issue, the Oxford School District this week approved new starting and ending times for schools in the district.

The approved hours for schools are: Bramlett Elementary, Oxford Elementary and Della Davidson Elementary schools, starting at 7:40 a.m. and ending at 2:35 p.m.; Oxford Intermediate School, starting at 7:35 and ending at 2:40; Oxford Middle School, starting at 8:20 and ending at 3:40; Oxford High School and Oxford Learning Center, starting at 8:25 and ending at 3:40; and the Scott Center, starting at 7:30 and ending at 2:30.

Some are concerned about the staggered times because they pose conflicts with work schedules and children being left unattended.

During the school board meeting, Oxford resident Monica McBride read a letter from Oxford parents and residents who are concerned about the new start times. She also presented the board with a petition of signatures of those who oppose the new times.

“We are asking you to support our petition for the school start times to remain the same to benefit our children and community needs,” McBride said. “The middle school-aged children are affected the most by this change as they are considered too old for day care and too young to stay by themselves. We ask that you support our petition so that parents may have peace of mind that their children are safe.”

The changed hours are due to several factors, such as: managing increased traffic during drop-off and pick-up times at the various schools; changing bus routes so that elementary school students will be separated from older students while on the bus; and increasing achievement rates for secondary students with later start times.

Some remain unconvinced about the expected benefits of the policy.

“I really don’t understand how this is a good thing,” Oxford mom and resident Amy Rodgers said.

“I have one child in intermediate school and the other in high school. I take them to school in the morning, but they ride the bus in the afternoon. I was able to get to work in that time frame (but) now they will have to ride the bus and afternoons are hard enough doing homework (but) now my child in high school is having an hour taken away in the afternoons.”

School officials assured parents at the board meeting that earlier drop-off times will be provided for students whose parents may have to be at work earlier.

“Elementary schools may start drop-off at 7 a.m. and the high school and middle school may start theirs at 7:30,” Assistant Superintendent Bill Hamilton said.

Superintendent Brian Harvey said parents are encouraged to drop children off earlier.

“We will have our school doors open early so parents can drop off their child at school earlier than the school start time; in fact, we encourage our parents to drop students off at school earlier, so that they can eat breakfast in the cafeteria,” Harvey said in a recent news release. “All students eat breakfast free in our school district.”

Students whose parents need an even earlier drop off time are encouraged to contact the school so arrangements will be made to accommodate them.

After-school care has also been extended to Della Davidson Elementary this year. It already is in the works for those at Bramlett and Oxford Elementary. After-school care is $75 and includes a snack and homework help.

“I really like the idea of older kids being separated from younger ones; my kids have complained of bad language they’ve heard,” said Shanna Flaschka, an Oxford resident and mom.

“But what I’m wondering is what this will do for pick-up times. Our bus comes at the absurd time of 6:40 a.m. then drops them off around 4 p.m. If that changes, I’m all for the new schedule, even if it complicates scheduling after-school stuff.”

Hamilton said the district is still in the process of working out bus schedules but he said the new routes will be better for the children.

“We are using some technology that will help us figure out what routes there will be,” Hamilton said. “The new times and new routes will actually lead kids to be on buses for shorter amounts of time.”

The district will announce bus schedules as they are determined.

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Information from: Oxford Eagle, http://www.oxfordeagle.com

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