The Public School Board Trustee for Renfrew County is apologizing for not consulting with families in the region before implementing staggered bells in the region.

David Kaiser, School Board Trustee for Renfrew County, typically consults with families before implementing such changes. However, with the pandemic, he says the consultation “fell through the cracks”. Normally the Board goes to communities to consult them about changes like this like they did when they implemented the staggered schedule in other parts of the District back in 2010. Kaiser offered his apologies for not doing this for the recent bus changes.

Staggered Bells, the process of letting different students out of class at different times, has been part of Renfrew County District Schools for a decade. However, during the initial decision, the Madawaska Area schools (Killaloe Public School, Madawaska Valley District High School, Palmer Rapids Public Schools and Sherwood Public School) were left out. Kaiser says this was because there were no significant savings to be found by staggering the bells, and so decided to hold off implementing the decision. However this year, the Ministry of Education wished to implement the change across the province. In addition, the board found that there could be savings of up to $107,000 a year if they staggered school bells and brought Madawaska Valley along with the rest of the district.

Kaiser says he and the board realizes that there will be an inconvenience to parents with the new system. However, in his experience with the changes that took place in 2010, while there is a period of adjustment, many institutions that parents depend upon also adapt to the change. While Kaiser says the while new changes were inconvenient, childcare providers were able to work through the changes over time to better serve parents. He says parents should ask their childcare providers for flexibility during the transition.

As for extracurricular activities, Kaiser says the School Board understands that they may conflict with class time. However, they are flexible with allowing parents to take their kids out of school earlier than normal if it will allow them to participate in these activities. Typically when the Board finds savings, Kaiser says they try to reinvest that money into the classroom. However, they may also look at ways to help support families during the transition. Regardless of what they do, those savings will stay within the community.

Kaiser also took the opportunity to acknowledge a shortage of bus drivers and operators in the region. Plans were in place to delay the bell changes in order to help parents prepare for the new system. However, Kaiser said they were only able to do this if certain tenders put out by the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium (RCJTC) were accepted. Because they were not, they were unable to delay staggered bell changes in the Madawaska Valley area.

Moose FM has reached out to the RCJTC for further comment, but as of the writing of this article, it has not responded. The staggered bell changes will be implemented this fall.