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Letters to the editor

editor@vaildaily.com

As a parent that attended the March 12 school board meeting, I would like to make public my disappointment at the lack of interest the members displayed to the many parents that attended the meeting. The parents were given story after story of how the start times would positively affect the individual situations of the various members of the board. As a publicly elected entity, personal preference should not be a part of the decision. The members of the board were elected to be the voice for the parents in their respective districts, not the mind for the parents in their respective districts. (To Mr. Thompson, I am publicly saying thank you for letting your fellow board members know that this will negatively affect your household.)The overwhelming majority of the people that crowded the board meeting were there to ask for the board’s help. As a board, the members have the ability to step in and shelve this decision until further attempts to include the general public in the decision making process are made.Instead, members of the board used the opportunity to admonish the large crowd for not being more involved in their child’s education. Did it ever occur to any of the members of the board that these parents felt the board and the district in general were moving in the right direction prior to this switch? They obviously felt this was the first step that could be considered “out of line.” The parents were in attendance hoping the board would take the initiative to correct this very wrong situation.This is not an issue that is going to go away. Firstly, the district admitted that this is a change that came after two years of discussion, discussion that did not include any member of the public.I have requested copies of the minutes of the meetings to many of these meetings and have been told that administrative meetings do not have minutes taken. Barb Schierkolk made mention to the members of the meeting that “ad team meetings” are open to the public and notifications are posted. That is in direct contrast to what anyone calling the district office is told. John Brendza told me personally that these meetings are closed meetings and minutes are not taken. Are any of the members of the board or district familiar with the “Sunshine Law?” What about the “Colorado Open Public Meeting Law?”Secondly, there is an organized, educated and articulate group of parents that will not let this issue disappear. We are in contact with the parent group from Florida that has already successfully sued their district. Is that the path you want us to continue down?At the meeting the board and district administrators made mention multiple times of the sleep study research that supports the high school start time change. No mention was made that there is no research to support the district’s claim that elementary students learn “early in the day.” It is clear that “early in the day” is a relative statement that varies from child to child. What is early to one child is not for another.There is no qualitative or quantitative data that says 7:45 is an appropriate start time for elementary school. The research that is available clearly shows these young children are just as susceptible to sleep deprivation as their older counterparts. The parents that attended that meeting were not in opposition to the high school and middle school start time change. The parents were there in direct opposition to the elementary start time.As a member of this community I left the meeting feeling very disappointed. I was there to ask for the board’s help. Instead of help, the board and district are offering public meetings at the various elementary schools. Essentially, the district clearly sees that a bad decision has been made. Now the district is going to try to put a political spin on it to try to make parents like the decision, rather than going back to square one and involving the public in the process.As a parent, I do not want explanation of the decision. I want an opportunity to help reach the decision.For the parents that attended this meeting, I can only hope that they continue to fight the board and district on this ridiculous decision. It was made in error without regard to safety, common sense or family values.As a parent, I am letting you know that at least one parent plans to fight you all the way on this issue. The district has a responsibility to make school a safe learning environment for all children. Short-changing one group to accommodate another is not acceptable.There must be solutions out there to help both the youngsters and adolescents. I am sure that if given the time and opportunity the district, board and community could make a better decision, a decision that will not polarize a community to the extent the current one has.It is time for the members of this board to step up and listen to the elementary parents in their respective districts and take action on their requests. If the individual members of the board fail to do just that, then I feel comfortable saying those members will be defeated come election time or quite possibly face a recall prior to that.Jackie RindyPartnership PartyOn behalf of the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau, I would like to thank Club Chelsea and their staff for hosting our very successful Partnership Party on Wednesday, March 12, with added thanks going to those 200 attending partners who contributed to the success!The Harry Baxter Band did a wonderful job of entertaining throughout the evening and our appreciationtothis year’sevent supporters: Vail Daily, KineticoWater Pros, KVBA-TV8 & 17, KZYR-The Zephyr,KTUN-KSKE-Rocky Mountain Broadcasting and Vail Resorts Inc.The party afforded us the ability to thank our partnersfor their participation in theyear 2002-2003 and also provided a great venue to kick off the new Partnership Year of 2003-2004.We appreciate all of the support!Connie BennettManager ofBusiness Service ProgramsVail Valley Chamber& Tourism BureauDisappointedI was disappointed to see the Vail Town Council opt for the million dollar buy-out at the Berry Creek 5th (Miller Ranch). While I can understand the money will help town coffers, I feel the floating cap approved by the county commissioners will drive these units away from local buyers and into the second-home market much quicker than with a 3 percent cap. But that decision has been made, solet’s move on to a situation that maybe we can help. The Children’s Garden of Learning Preschool is in a state of confusion right now. When the Middle Creek housing proposal came through the Vail Town Council, the decision was made to keep the school on this site and help with relocation for the construction period.It has come to my attention that the town has backed off of this position and has told the school to fend for themselves. This surprises me, as the school serves 125 working-class families who rely on day care close to their places of employment. A couple of teachers have given notice, as they don’t know if they’ll have jobs in June. Current students will suffer from the break-up of peer groups that have been bonding for two to three years.Prospective students and their parents have no idea where the school will be, let alone if they’ll have enough room to meet state standards. If we continue to drag our feet and tell the school this is their burden, then the message is clear – take your children and find jobs downvalley; we don’t want to be bothered in Vail. Please let your elected and town officials know that this issue concerns you and needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. Town Council voice mail is 479-1860, ext. 8, for all council members or e-mail: towncouncil@ci.vail.co.us. Thanks for reading along and may God bless us all!Kevin FoleyVailNew times rightI am writing regarding the schedule changes for our schools next year. I have been a single, working mother since my child started kindergarten. I worked for six years and utilized the after-school program offered by our elementary school as supervision until my work day was complete.While this was in no way a perfect or even desired situation, it was the only alternative.Looking back now, my child actually enjoyed the after-school program and greatly excelled in her school work. And whether it was dark or not, I did not allow my young child at a bus stop alone or walk to school alone. Thus, the after-school program was necessary for working parents who did not finish work by the end of the school day, as it should continue to be with the schedule change.Now, for the past three years, I have been watching middle school students get up at 5 a.m. in order to catch a 6:30 bus. Their school day is not over until 2:45 and even later for those riding the bus home. Added to this day is homework in multiple subjects each evening. While placing my child in elementary after-school care seemed difficult at the time, this situation has been far worse. I have seen a very obvious negative effect on the students and their education.Our high school students are attempting to learn and excel with an unacceptable and statistically proven detrimental schedule. I have actually taken the time to read the research regarding adolescents, sleep and education and find it very reliable. The high school students’ learning and grades have a permanent impact on the students’ future and should be addressed. The fact is that many school districts across the country are making the exact change our school administration has proposed for the exact same reasons. As a parent who has had an elementary student in an after-school program and a middle school student struggling to get up at 5 a.m., I have actually dealt with both aspects of this situation first hand, unlike many others. I can assure elementary parents that when their young child is suddenly having to start their day at 5 a.m. to attend middle school, their opinion will change.We should expect our school system to successfully educate our children, but should not expect them to be day care centers. True, some elementary school parents will not be able to be home at 2:45, many won’t be home at 3:45, and the current start time is too late for many parents.All age groups of students, as well as teachers, should be considered in the school schedule. Although I do understand the concerns of the elementary students’ parents, as I have myself been one of them, I firmly believe that the school administration has made the best decision for all of our students with the provision that after-school programs be provided at every elementary school in support of working parents.Any parent who would like to read research that confirms the decision will find over 30 articles at http://www.stanford.edu/-dement/adolescsent.html.Tammy Ingram


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