Later CHS start not budgeted, but still on the table

Later CHS start not budgeted, but still on the table

CUMBERLAND – A preliminary 2019-2020 school budget presented by Supt. Bob Mitchell last week does not include the costs of a later start time at Cumberland High School, but the town’s head of schools is not ruling out making a change to include it.

Mitchell told The Valley Breeze he’ll have a better idea whether the schools can afford this change in the coming days as budget priorities and funding sources are fleshed out. He said the proposed move to change the start time from 7:15 a.m. to at least 8 a.m. remains a priority, because giving students more sleep has proven to have numerous positive impacts, including improved grades and lower depression rates. The superintendent clarified that a previous proposal for four additional buses to accommodate the later start time, at a cost of $260,000, was reached based on one model that flipped the schedules for the high school and elementary schools, meaning elementary students would start earlier and high school students would start later.

Though younger students are known to be ready to go much earlier, and to be able to better handle that schedule, Mitchell said there is no current plan to flip those schedules, meaning the district would need at least an additional six large buses and a special education bus, at a total combined cost of about $481,000. That number is more in line with previous price tags listed for the initiative in recent years.

Mitchell’s overall budget proposal of $71.46 million represents a 2.8 percent increase over last year’s $69.5 million budget. The schools are seeking an additional 4 percent appropriation from the town and its taxpayers, or about $1.82 million more.

There are numerous cost drivers that are outside of school officials’ control, said school board member Steve Hess at a meeting last Thursday, March 14, including contractual pay increases, state-mandated pension payments, charter school tuitions, health care costs and others, but there are also some proposals to build on the great educational gains the district has achieved in recent years.

This is a fiscally responsible budget, said Mitchell, with a goal to support all staff and students and continue the district’s academic growth.

School Committee Chairman Paul DiModica said this will likely be a tough financial year for the town, adding to the challenge. DiModica said he hopes residents again come out during discussions to support the district in what it’s doing. The district was fourth in the state on recent testing, he said, and officials have a goal of going higher.

The Cumberland School Committee’s fiscal management subcommittee was set to meet Wednesday evening, March 20, to discuss the budget. A meeting tonight, March 21, is also scheduled necessary, also to be held in the Cumberland High School Transitional Building.


Instead of running an extra 6 to 8 School Buses to transport those CHS students that use this means of transportation to arrive for their "Too Early in the Morning Curriculum"...and the taxpayers incurring the costs involved in doing there not a better way?

We are talking $$$$$$$ that could be well spent elsewhere...along with not bringing about the added costs that would be incurred because of the "BS" Maintenance of Effort.

Why not just start class at every level (High School, Middle School and Elementary) 30 to 45-minuites later...then everyone will be more tested, more alert, etc. That includes not only our students, but staff, teachers, bus drivers, etc.

Problem Solved??

I wish it was that easy! The problem is that we have three elementary schools that start at 9, pushing them 30-45 minutes later would have school starting at 9:30 or 9:45. Currently dismissal bus time is 3:26-3:45pm, later start time at the elementary school would have our students leaving school after 4 and many not getting home until close to 5. I hope you will agree that’s not ideal either.

Somehow, the town managed to support later start times for our high school students prior to 1987, I’m guessing someone thought it was a good idea to save some money by having our students getting on buses just after 6 a.m. since then.

Amy Goggin

It's disappointing that the later school start time is not included in the budget request. This change has been a high priority for the superintendent and the school committee for years. It has been studied and there's a lot of evidence that it would help kids in a variety of ways.

It's a lot of money to fix, but as Amy Goggin said above, Cumberland has had an earlier start time for about 30 years, and we've been saving money on transportation as a result ever since.

While there is always the chance the school committee could add it back in, doing so would require comparable cuts to stay within the limits of how much the school department can request from the town. Given the financial realities, it's not likely that a later school start time will be funded this coming year, unfortunately.

Perhaps there may be some creative alternatives that don't cost as much, but still provide some benefits to many students.

One idea -- schools are already released one hour early every Wednesday. It's worth considering starting school an hour later on those days instead. This would provide a later start time one-day a week. It'd be a start.

-Bill Dennen

Per my previous suggestion further above and your comments Bill, more-so Amy's comments.

With most everything in life, more-so in politics, wherein and when a middle-ground can be found, it usually is the best road to take. (My paraphrasing Frost here.)

Why not split the difference here as to the starting times in 1/2...and applying it at every level?  High School, Middle School and Elementery?

Might not that be for the BEST?

A 'Middle-Ground'? 

A Win-Win...that we can all live with?


It ain't easy is it? 

As I learned during my 6-years on the School Committee... it really is an elected office where you need serve 2-Constituencies...something many elected to said office just do not seem to understand.

Again. THANK YOU!!!

Tom L.

Has it been considered to have a route that picks up both high school and middle school students together and drops middle first then High school? This may still require additional busing but maybe a lesser number in total depending on how well the bus occupancy is balanced today.