The Vernon Township School District Board of Education on Aug. 19 directed Superintendent Karen D’Avino to reverse a decision to start and end school 15 minutes later, across the district’s schools.
The measure passed by a 5-4 vote.
Board of Education Vice President Kelly Mitchell, along with board members Theresa Scura-Coughlan, Martin O’Donnell, Ray Zimmerman and Joseph Sweeney voted for the measure.
Board of Education President Justin Annunziata, Charles Cimaglia, Adina Leuthner and Jennifer Pellet voted against it. Cimaglia clarified he voted “no” because the start time is the superintendent’s call.
The administration earlier this month that the district made the start times about 15 minutes later.
D’Avino attributed the change to a shortage of bus drivers and studies that indicate later starts are beneficial for middle and high schoolers.
Mitchell initially asked for the change to be rescinded, expressing unhappiness that the Board of Education wasn’t notified of the change and didn’t discuss it.
She said 15 minutes was “just one slap” of the snooze alarm and didn’t gain the district anything.
“It’s disrupting the entire community, businesses, students, teachers and parents that have to get to work,” she said. “I don’t think that the 15 minutes is worth it.”
Pellet countered that 15 minutes could be impactful and alluded to research that supports that starting later is better for adolescents.
Vernon Township schools have the earliest start times of any district in Sussex County, and some students have bus rides of up to an hour.
“I think it was a great move by the administration to make that happen,” Pellet said. “It’s something we’ve been kicking down the road for years and the research is there to support it.”
O’Donnell said with the later start time, his 16-year-old daughter would not have been able to get to work on time, and board member Ray Zimmerman, a former hockey coach in the district, said it could make kids have to rush to games or practice.
“Kids who are rushing to sports are more likely to get hurt than a kid who has time to prepare,” he said.
D’Avino said students would have ample time to get to their sports.
Sweeney said he didn’t think it was a good idea and was against it because of the impact it could have on parents’ commutes to and from work.
Annunziata said there were two issues at hand. He said it should have been discussed with the board before the decision was made.
“I think we know what issues rise to the concern of the board, and this is one that’s been a concern of the board for years,” he said.
He also said the decision to move the district to a later start time was based on biology.
“I don’t believe 15 minutes is going to change the world, but it is a step in the right direction,” he said.