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Writers question Amherst start time decision

To the editor:

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Amherst Regional School Committee faced a decision: should the high school and middle school change its start time to 9 a.m. or keep the current 7:45 am start? The School Committee members offered no substantive arguments against the proposal. Instead, two Committee members stated that sports, in general, are of equal — if not greater — value than academics in motivating students.

This position is an insult to the outstanding teachers and scholars at our schools as well as a profound misinterpretation of the schools’ mission. Their generalization also grossly exaggerated the impact of Ms. Geryk’s proposal. Her report made it clear that the extracurricular athletic activities of only 5 percent of the students would be cut and a further 4 percent might be cut.

Another committee member justified a no vote by his desire to protect the superintendent from having too much work; he therefore rejected her recommendation and voted against her proposal. Another member said the committee should not involve itself in families’ scheduling decisions, thus dodging the committee’s responsibility for the current schedule’s imposition on families. These logical distortions were outdone by the committee chair’s justification of his no vote by saying that the committee should instead consider a far more ambitious but unrelated topic.

In contrast, Katherine Appy and Michael DeChiara — two of the three members who voted yes — offered careful arguments emphasizing the data-driven justification for the later start time and defining the impact on the sports programs. Another member, Amilcar Shabazz, acknowledged his personal concerns but set them aside when he voted for a change that would serve the interests of all students. Their approach should set the standard for future debates and decisions by our School Committee. We should not settle for anything less.

Jenn Chylack
Tony Dinsmore


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