Jefferson City Public Schools is having two town hall meetings this week — the first one is tonight — on proposed school start time changes, and the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City said that it, too, would be affected by any changes that could alter demand for after school child care.
JCPS is considering how to better synchronize its school start times to have all elementary buildings start at one time and all secondary buildings at another, one hour apart. District officials have said the change would save up to about $500,000 annually in bus transportation costs, and might help alleviate some existing busing issues and new route challenges presented by having to accommodate Capital City High School this coming fall.
The school district's two town hall meetings for the community to discuss proposed start time changes are 6 p.m. today at Lewis & Clark Middle School; and 5 p.m. Thursday at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
One option would be to have all elementary students start school an hour earlier than middle and high school students and have secondary students start closer to 9 a.m., to take advantage of what research shows — older students do better in school with later start times.
JCPS is aware, though, that this could mean families who currently rely on older siblings to babysit younger children after school would no longer be able to do that because the older siblings would be getting out of school an hour after the elementary students.
The district said earlier this month that it does not keep track of how many students rely on older siblings for after-school care.
Jefferson City YMCA's Y-Care program also said earlier this month that an increase in demand for after-school child care could present challenges in facility space and staffing needs — especially given most school sites where the Y offers its care program are at full capacity after school.
"The hurdle is how many of our secondary students are going home and taking care of their elementary siblings. I think we need to get a grasp on that number," Stephanie Johnson said Jan. 25. Johnson is the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, a candidate for a seat on the JCPS Board of Education in the coming April election and a mother of children in the school district.
Johnson said she agrees research reveals that older children do better later in the day, and vice versa for younger children, but added that parents should be reached out to through surveys or other ways to determine how many families might be affected by proposed changes.
In terms of the Boys & Girls Club's own capacity to expand for any increased demand for after-school care, "we would have to get a new facility, not necessarily build one, but see if we could partner with a church or community center," Johnson said.
She added the Club would also have to go to its board of directors and determine what the financial impacts would be and from where any needed income would come.