Saturday, July 07, 2007

Three bells

Bell rings at 9:10 for Osler students

Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News

(Jul 6, 2007)

Concerns over the planned early start time for Sir William Osler School convinced the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to conduct a quick, and rare, parent survey.

According to local superintendent of education John Laverty, a slim majority supported the 9:10 a.m. start - and that time will be used for both Dundas District and Central Park in September, as well as Osler whenever it is ready for students.

"This was somewhat atypical," Mr. Laverty said this week after the new start time was announced to parents on June 28, the last day of school.

He explained bell times are usually decided in consultation between the board's transportation department and school principal.

In this particular case, two schools being closed by the board -- Central Park at 9 a.m. and Dundas District at 8:10 a.m. -- had a wide variation in start time.

"We've never faced that before," Mr. Laverty said.

An early 8 a.m. start time or a late 9:10 a.m. start would have allowed the board to use existing busses and not add new transportation. But when an 8 a.m. start time was announced by principal Maria Rowles, the school board started to hear from several concerned parents who felt the start time was much too early, particularly for younger students who walk to school. So board staff agreed to send home a parent survey on June 25 with a deadline for them to be returned by the morning of Wednesday, June 27.

Mr. Laverty agreed the opportunity for parental input was a short one, but noted choosing a bell time typically doesn't involve outside consultation. He said the Osler situation was not typical.

He said the board also normally finalizes start times before the end of the school year, so parents have a couple of months to make child care arrangements if necessary.

According to a letter sent to parents on June 28, 90 per cent of parents responded to the survey, and 53 per cent preferred the 9:10 a.m. start.

When it opens sometime after next September, Osler school will be one of three schools within half a kilometre on the south side of Governor's Road.

Start times will range from 8:15 a.m. at Highland Secondary School to 9 a.m. at St. Bernadette Catholic Elementary, and 9:10 a.m. at Osler.

The new school's principal must request any crossing guards necessary from the City of Hamilton. The city operated three crossing guards on Creighton Road this school year, including one at Creighton and Governor's Road.

Randy Kay, a Dundas resident and member of transportation for livable communities, an Ontario Public Interest Research Group, said the primary concern should now be getting kids to the school by walking, cycling or roller blading, while calming traffic and creating safe crossing points.

Opposed to widening

Mr. Kay said TLC is opposed to the city widening Governor's Road, which allows for increased traffic speeds and increases crossing distance.

The group supports the addition of bicycle lanes.

"Priority one should be pedestrians and cycling, then transit, then finally cars. And it's not clear to me at this point this is the emphasis we're getting," Mr. Kay said.

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