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Hundreds of N.Y.C. Schools Will Start the Day Earlier This Fall

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By guest blogger Madeline Will

Many New York City students will be waking up for school a little earlier come September, as hundreds of the city's schools adjust their start time.

The changes in schools' start times stem from a requirement in the city's new contract with the teachers' union to set aside blocks of time for professional development and parent engagement. The contract extended the parameters for the teacher workday so that it now ends by 4 p.m. at the latest on Mondays and Tuesdays (workdays will continue to end no later than 3:45 p.m. the rest of the week), but many schools are also tweaking their start time to accommodate the changes, according to the New York City Department of Education.

About 30 percent of the city's approximately 1,800 public schools have shifted their start time—usually by 15 minutes—forward or backward, according to the department. The majority of those have made their start time earlier, a spokesman said. The amount of instructional time will remain the same.

One Brooklyn parent, Dzianis Kapylou, found out that his 6-year-old daughter's school, the Talented & Gifted School for Young Scholars in East Harlem, moved its start time from 8:50 a.m. to 8:05 a.m. His daughter will now have to wake up at 6 a.m. to make it to school on time, he told the New York Daily News. He added that if he had known this would be the start time, he would not have considered the school.

In fact, Kapylou started a Change.org petition to protest the change in schedule for the five citywide gifted and talented schools, since families commute to those schools from all over the city. So far, it's gathered more than 800 signatures.

The petition, in parts, reads:

We have just received a message that affects our lives and the lives of our children. Yet we were not asked for our opinion on this matter. ... Many of us commute for 30-45 minutes and many have to commute even longer. ... Our children will be forced to wake up 40 minutes earlier which means they will be less rested and therefore less healthy. We need to raise our concerns in order to protect our children's wellness.

The default start time in New York City is 8 a.m., but schools are (and have been) allowed to select a start time that works for their community through a school-based option, agreed on by teachers and principals and approved by the district. The city school system encourages principals to take into account parent feedback when determining the school's schedule, a department spokesman said.

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