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Jefferson City Board of Education compromises on school start time changes

Jefferson City Board of Education compromises on school start time changes

March 12th, 2019 by Phillip Sitter in Local News

Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS)

All of Jefferson City Public Schools' elementary schools will start at 7:45 a.m. next year; the district's two high schools at 8:40 a.m.; and the two middle schools at 8:50 a.m. — that's the result of the JCPS Board of Education's vote Monday night on school start time changes.

That set of start times was Option B, for those who were among the 2,741 participants who voted in the district's survey on which of three sets start time change options they preferred.

Most high school and middle school parents, teachers and students and community members who voted had favored Option A, which had the earliest start times for secondary schools — five minutes earlier than what was unanimously approved by the six school board members present, with Vice President Rich Aubuchon absent from the meeting.

Most elementary school parents, teachers and students who voted favored Option C, which had the latest elementary school start time — 10 minutes later than what was approved.

Option B had gotten 13 percent of the vote overall in the survey results; Option A, 48 percent; and Option C, 39 percent.

After seeing the survey results, school board Treasurer Lorelei Schwartz proposed "the fair solution is in between," and she made the successful motion to approve Option B.

Board members — most of whom are themselves parents of current JCPS students — said they did not take making the decision lightly.

"This one's been tough," board member Scott Hovis said.

Board President Steve Bruce said after the board meeting that the start time changes are "one of the biggest investments" into the quality of students' education that the district has madeĀ in a long time.

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Bruce added while the changes will cause some pain to some people, "we did what we were called to do" as a board.

"We will leave that to the staff," he said of what comes next — figuring out what the best solutions are for providing the before and after school care families might need.

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum said after the meeting that he's confident parents will know what their options are by the time school lets out for the summer, and in the meantime, the district will be gathering more information from parents and child care providers.

"It'll be challenging, but I think we can do it," Jessica Kever said in the meeting's opening forum session of how the Jefferson City YMCA's Y-Care program would adapt to school start time changes. Kever is Y-Care's director of child care services.

David Ganey, who spoke as a parent in open forum — he's also a Jefferson City High School science teacher and assistant wrestling coach, and the local representative of the Missouri National Education Association — said the board ought to think about the ramifications of school start time changes on school days, especially in conjunction with a proposed change of secondary schools' schedules to a seven-period schedule, as opposed to the current four-block day.

Ganey said opportunities for students would be limited by that combination.

Emily Roberts — who teaches kindergarten at Belair Elementary School — spoke in favor of earlier start times for elementary students, so that those students will be less tired and more focused later in the school day.

JCPS Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf said later in the meeting that while the district is not claiming all secondary students will get more sleep in the exact amount that their start times have been pushed back, those students overall will get more sleep — likely 28-38 more minutes a night.

Shindorf added scientific studies across the country on the subject of later start times' benefits for secondary students have universal conclusions, including that there will be some positive increases in attendance and graduation rates and grades.

All of the start time changes the board discussed were projected in the 2019-20 school year's preliminary budget — presented later in the meeting — to save JCPS $150,000 in transportation.

That same budget also showed the transportation costs of busing students for activities at Capital City High School is projected to cost $150,000.

While the district may break even on that, it has said the cost savings of start time changes combined with avoided increases in transportation costs will be up to approximately $500,000 a year.

Shindorf again cited an example of what those savings could pay for — seven additional middle school staff to better focus on students' reading and writing, at a cost of just over $412,000 in the 2019-20 preliminary budget.

In terms of how different school start times will be in the 2019-20 school year, high school and middle buildings will start classes 50 minutes later than they do now. High school buildings' classes will end at 3:40 p.m., and middle schools' at 3:50 p.m.

The elementary schools that will have the biggest change will be Belair, Cedar Hill and Lawson, which all currently start at 9 a.m. — an hour and 15-minute difference.

The elementary schools that will have smallest changes in start times will be Callaway Hills and North, which both currently start the earliest at 8 a.m. Moreau Heights and Pioneer Trail currently start at 8:15 a.m.

Starting next year, all elementary schools will release at 2:45 p.m.