Play More, Sleep Right, Learn Better
In a move likely to be celebrated by 3rd graders throughout the district, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board voted 8-0 at its September 9 meeting to eliminate loss of recess as a penalty for student misconduct. Board Member Wendy Voet took a moment to commend the administration for protecting recess, which the American Academy of Pediatrics has cited as “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development [which], as such . . . should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
Meanwhile, the administration has extended an invitation for interested parents to join the task force that will explore the issue of adolescent sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation and the possibility of delaying school start times. Parents can find more information and a link to the application survey here. The deadline to apply to serve on the task force is September 16. The administration will inform those who are chosen by September 19.
On the evening’s focus topic, Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer described extraordinarily large elementary school and pre-K classes for 2019-20, a trend which she expects to increase in each of the next few years. “A lot of parents bringing their children … have little ones at home as well,” said Dr. Palmer, noting that the elementary schools were serving 1,694 children in 2019-20, a nearly 300 child increase from the 1,414 children that they served when she started working for WSSD in 2005-06, and that the district would need to begin planning accommodations to help the proverbial serpent digest the elephant.
Dr. Palmer also expressed some concern over class fluctuations: one SRS grade went from 82 to 86 students, a change that appears much greater when one notes that the increase of four actually represents a loss of eight students and a gain of twelve — swapping out roughly 10% of the student body and then throwing in another 5% on top. As far as scheduling was concerned, she said that she would try to access schedules from previous years of high enrollment to see if any lessons could be gleaned from them.
During the audience comment period, a small coalition of parents expressed their frustration over a number of issues, including in-service days and bussing schedules. Diane Hall noted that holidays and in-service days led to seven of the first ten weeks of school being incomplete due to either a day off or an early dismissal, adding that the irregular schedules left working parents scrambling to find childcare. On an unrelated point, she said that she was excited about the possibility of delayed school start times, but believed that the music department should have greater representation on the planning committees published online, as 1/3 of the high school is in band and bandfront, and their schedules would likely be affected.
Rebecca Tenney-Soeiro rose to speak after Ms. Hall and, after seconding her frustration over in-service schedules, added that her child’s bus schedule, which she received the evening of August 30, came too last-minute. She also said that her workplace requires her to request time off in February, and that the late publication of the academic calendar made it difficult to schedule family vacations. Finally, she said that she had received suboptimal communication and outreach from the school when she requested accommodations for a concussion that her son had received.