Parents angry over earlier start times planned for dozens of Boston’s elementary and K-8 schools gathered at a West Roxbury tree lighting Sunday afternoon to protest and demand that city officials postpone deciding on any changes for at least a year.
The protest came a day before the School Department launches 10 community meetings this week for officials to discuss the controversial new start times, which were rolled out by school leaders earlier this month.
The changes would mean later start times for many high-schoolers, but elementary students and their families at more than three dozen schools may see starts of 7:30 a.m. or earlier.
Parents have blasted the changes at public meetings, and Superintendent Tommy Chang on Friday told families that officials would reconsider the new start times and set the schedules in mid-January. That timing also met with criticism, as some families would be in the midst of school registration for the fall.
Sunday’s protest was timed for a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony attended by Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the corner of Washington and Grove streets in West Roxbury.
Walsh, who spent much of the event talking with concerned parents, acknowledged that the new start times “are a drastic change in a lot of ways” for some families.
He pointed to the upcoming community meetings as an opportunity to hear from parents and for school officials to determine what the next steps will be.
“I think a lot of parents weren’t expecting the big change. Unfortunately, to be able to get the costs under control by moving the high schools later, we have to do something,” said Walsh.
Parent Brian McGoldrick, 45, said he and other parents are outraged about the decision, which he said was made without enough input from parents of young children. He and his wife have a first-grader and a fourth-grader attending the Patrick Lyndon School in West Roxbury.
“It will disturb our life a great deal. We will have to cut down on our work hours; we will have to pay for baby-sitting or after-school programs,” he said.
Sarah Parker, 40, said families want a halt to the new start times, and called for school and city leaders to work out an alternative with parents. Parker has two children enrolled in the Patrick Lyndon School, plus a 2-year-old.
Parker said she urged Walsh at the tree lighting to have staff from his office and Chang’s office at the community meetings to hear from parents.
“He seemed receptive to that,” said Parker, who wants at least a one-year delay on making any changes. “I hope that he heard that message.”
According to the School Department, the following community meetings will be held to discuss start times for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Monday, Dec. 18
Roche Family Community Center - 1716 Centre St., West Roxbury, 6 to 8 p.m.
East Boston High School Cafeteria - 86 White St., East Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 19
Warren Prescott K-8 School - 50 West School St., Charlestown, 6 to 8 p.m.
Mattapan Early Elementary School - 100 Hebron St., Mattapan, 6 to 8 p.m.
James F. Condon K-8 School - 200 D St., South Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 20
McKeon Post - 4 Hill Top St., Dorchester, 6 to 8 p.m.
ABCD - 565 Warren St., Roxbury, 6 to 8 p.m.
Blackstone Community Center - BCYF - 50 West Brookline St., Boston, 6 to 8 p.m.
Curley K-8 School - 493 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 6 to 8 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 21
Brighton High School - 25 Warren St., Brighton, 6 to 8 p.m.