Durham News

DPS Board plans to vote on changing school start times

After years of talking about it, the Durham Public Schools Board of Education is poised to vote on changing school start and end times that would affect its more than 33,000 students in the 2016-17 school year.

“It has been a long road,” said board Chair Heidi Carter. “We got very serious about a year ago.”

In November members set a goal of starting middle and high schools no earlier than 8 a.m. by the 2016-17 school year. The move seeks to improve student achievement after research showed adolescents perform better with nine hours of sleep.

If the board decides to change start times – and address all the moving parts from establishing bus and magnet school schedules to informing parents – it needs to make the change at its Thursday meeting, said Scott Denton, DPS’s assistant superintendent of auxiliary services.

At a work session earlier this month, attended by five of the seven school board members, the board appeared to come to a consensus on one option, Carter said. The board is set to vote on that option Thursday.

It includes high schools starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. Most middle schools would start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Elementary schools would be tiered with start and end times that include 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.; 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Most middle and high schools now start at 7:30 a.m. Elementary schools start at 9 a.m.

The advantages of the changes include increasing instructional times for elementary school students by 30 minutes and middle school students by 10 minutes so both have a seven-hour school day, while providing additional time in the afternoon for school buses to arrive on time.

Disadvantages include only partially satisfying the board’s goal set in November. The changes also increase transportation costs by $227,000 and affect after-school activities for schools with later start times. Another concern centers on older siblings not being home when younger students return from school.

“Unfortunately, there is not one solution here that meets all the objectives and satisfies every teacher, every principal and every parent,” Denton said.

Another reason the board wants to make a decision Thursday is so that DPS officials can start working on solutions to address concerns and challenges, Carter said.

Board Vice Chair Mike Lee said he is leaning toward the change.

“I think it accomplishes part of our goal of getting the older kids the ability to go to school a little later, and they are a little but more alert,” he said. “Also, we don’t have to buy new buses.”

Board member Minnie Forte-Brown said she is concerned that the 9 a.m. start time is too late as it pushes back how late students, teachers and coaches have to stay for after-school activities.

“It’s not a done deal,” she said.

Forte-Brown said she thinks the board should consider an option in which students start between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Riverside and Jordan High football coaches said the proposed change would result in athletes and coaches getting home from practice as late as 8 p.m.

Riverside Coach Chris Howell said currently football players get out of school at 2:30 p.m. Between then and 6:30 p.m., sometimes later if practice runs over, players have an hour study hall, lift weights and football practice. If school start times are moved back 90 minutes, that will push the practice schedule back as well. Howell coaches about 90 kids total on the varsity and junior varsity teams.

LaDwaun Harrison, Jordan’s football coach, said he has the same after school time line, and he’s concerned that athletes will end up staying up even later doing homework after they get home from practice.

Harrison, who also coaches about 90 kids, said he is also concerned about getting home to eat with his family, something he tries do every night.

“It is going to push everything back,” Harrison said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

What’s next

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education is set to discuss and vote on the change in school start and end times at its meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Fuller Administration Building, 511 Cleveland St. downtown.

When other systems start

▪ Orange County Schools: elementary – 7:55 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.; middle school – 8:20 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.; high school – 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.;

▪ Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools: elementary – 7:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; middle school – 8:20 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.; high school – 8:45 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.

▪ Wake County Public Schools uses a three-tier system meaning buses take two or three runs to different schools in the morning and afternoon, which results in spread out school times. High schools generally begin from 7:20 a.m. to 8:05 a.m and end from 2:13 p.m. to 3 p.m. Middle schools generally start between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and end from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.. Elementary schools generally start between 7:45 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. and end from 2:20 .p.m. to 3:50 p.m.