New Portland school times seem set, for now

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PORTLAND — The School Board on Tuesday was expected to finalize new school-day start and end times for the 2015-2016 year, but will continue to study and possibly revise the daily schedule.

School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson on Monday said she expected the board to approve the latest iteration of the schedule, but that it also must “broaden the conversation.”

To do that, she said, the board is forming a task force to convene in August, which will continue researching topics including allowing high school students time to sleep later in the morning.

Thompson said changes could be implemented for the 2016-2017 school year.

“Hopefully this will work,” Thompson said. “If not, we’ll tweak it.

Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools next year will all start at 8 a.m., as they currently do, but will end at 2:30 p.m. instead of the current 2:10 p.m., to accommodate an additional 20 minutes of class time.

Initially, the Board had intended to start the day for the high schools at 8:30 a.m.,  and end at 3:05 p.m., in an effort to let high school students sleep in. However, following considerable push back, particularly from island residents, the board ultimately decided to retain the 8 a.m. start time.

Lincoln, Lyman Moore and King middle schools will now all start at 7:55 a.m. and finish at 2:25 p.m. The board voted on March 31 to have King run on that schedule, while Lyman Moore and Lincoln were scheduled for 8:15 a.m.-2:45 p.m. King’s times haven’t changed since the first iteration, because the times were set to accommodate island residents.

The city’s seven elementary schools will be broken into two separate groups. The first group, made up of Riverton, Ocean Avenue and Reiche schools, will start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m. The remaining schools – Hall, East End, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot – will run 8:40 a.m.-3:10 p.m.

The start and end times for the elementary schools stirred opinions in recent weeks, and the School Board went through three separate versions before settling on the final schedule.

Thompson said following a workshop on April 28, the board ultimately decided to keep the latest version.

“Everybody was in agreement we need to continue the conversation,” she said.

The board was also scheduled to vote on having students at the Bayside Learning Community go to school from 7:55 a.m.-2:25 p.m. Bayside serves kindergarten through 12th grade.

Metro advisers

The district has also formed a new committee to serve an advisory role as high school students transition to using Metro buses.

The Metro Advisory Committee will be made up of School Board members Jon Eder and Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, City Councilor Ed Suslovic, Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk, Deputy Chief Operations Officer Craig Worth, Portland High School Assistant Principal Kathie Marquis-Girard, Metro General Manager Gregory Jordan and marketing director Denise Beck, all four student representatives on the School Board, and several parents and students.

“(The committee) was made to discuss how we get out communication plans to students, parents and the community at large,” Thompson said. “It’s to talk about on going successes and challenges. First and foremost, their task is to make sure they fully explore the process for the launch.

Worth said the committee will discuss issues like distribution of bus passes. He said the committee decided the passes will be given out in June, so students can get experience using the bus system.

The partnership with the Metro bus system for students at Portland, Deering and Casco Bay high schools would begin this fall. Under a proposed three-year contract, students would ride at a discounted fare of 75 cents. The district would pay up to $160,000 for the service, while Metro will cover anything exceeding that cost.

Worth said the group still has to finalize a memorandum of understanding with Metro, but the partnership is otherwise on track.

“I see no reason why it wouldn’t go forward,” he said.

The committee will next meet on May 20 at 5 p.m. at the Portland Public Schools
Central Office, 353 Cumberland Ave.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or