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Parents applaud decision to halt plans to change school start times — for now

A happy Beatrice Graf, 9, a third-grader at Mission Hill School, did a somersault at a small showing of parents and students at City Hall.
A happy Beatrice Graf, 9, a third-grader at Mission Hill School, did a somersault at a small showing of parents and students at City Hall. (John Tlumacki/Globe staff)

About an hour after Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang announced he would not be changing school start and end times for the next school year, parents who gathered at City Hall Plaza applauded the decision but stressed there is more work to be done.

Some parents, like Sarena Nichol, who has three children, two in elementary school, said they were pleasantly surprised.

“I’m thrilled that we were listened to,” she said, standing in the snow Friday afternoon at what was supposed to be a protest against the start time changes. “That is a good feeling.”

In the announcement, Chang stressed his commitment to the community and acknowledged the time shift would cause “significant disruption” to families, which is why he decided not to implement the change for the next school year.

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Dorothy Fennell, who has a daughter in pre-kindergarten, said she was happy the announcement came before Christmas so families could enjoy the holidays.

“It’s a great way to go into the weekend,” she said. “Since we heard the news, we’ve spent all our time focused on this.”

Most parents, who planned to show up at City Hall before the changes were put on hold, still held signs decrying the original decision.

“Mayor, do you start work at 7:15?” Fennell’s sign read.

Even in light of Friday’s announcement, she said she still hopes to see more transparency from Mayor Martin J. Walsh going forward.

“I would hope that the mayor would be more public about this issue,” she said. “[The School Committee is] appointed by the mayor, so he can’t pretend like he’s not tied to this process.”

Georgia Fennell-Davis, 4 from Jamaica Plain, used her father, Seth's smartphone as she sat on the back of a carriage at a small showing of parents and students at City Hall.
Georgia Fennell-Davis, 4 from Jamaica Plain, used her father, Seth's smartphone as she sat on the back of a carriage at a small showing of parents and students at City Hall. (John Tlumacki/Globe staff)

Rene Bernal, who has two children in elementary school, said he was still frustrated and said Chang’s statement was not a sufficient response to parents.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

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Many parents, Bernal included, said they wouldn’t have been able to get their kids to and from school if the schedule changed.

“I have two jobs, my wife has two jobs,” he said. “If you remove one, who pays the rent?”

Anne Cody, a working mother of two, said she would have managed the change but was concerned for families in different financial situations.

“I was more worried about people who couldn’t afford after-school care for their kids . . . or if a child had special needs and was in a program that wasn’t necessarily able to take care of them for that much time,” she said.

Judy Grant, also a mother of two, said the city needs to allocate more funding to Boston Public Schools.

“We want them to fully fund the school budget so we have excellent schools for every child,” she said.


Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.