Education

Parents divided on proposals to shift Wake school times

Knightdale High School freshman Aiden Caben tries out his balloon-propelled car during a hands-on learning orientation camp in August 2015. Students could start school 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. beginning in August 2016.
Knightdale High School freshman Aiden Caben tries out his balloon-propelled car during a hands-on learning orientation camp in August 2015. Students could start school 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. beginning in August 2016. News & Observer file photo

Wake County parents are split on a proposal that would change when students at six schools start and end the school day this fall.

More than 240 comments have been registered on the school system’s online discussion forum about the proposed changes, which would shift the school day for some students by as much as 45 minutes. Arguments about the need for the right amount of sleep for students have been mixed with those about how the changes would affect family schedules.

The Wake school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the 2016-17 school bell schedules.

The change that has drawn the most comments would start Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex 45 minutes later to have an 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. schedule. School administrators say the later start will give them more time to transport additional students who will be attending Apex Friendship High School.

To save money, Wake has buses run multiple routes in the morning and afternoon. The start and dismissal times are spaced out to give drivers enough time to complete their routes.

Supporters of the later start time point to research saying middle schools and high schools shouldn’t start before 8:30 a.m. to give teens more time to sleep.

“These kids need to safely get to school (not in darkness) and get enough sleep as suggested by pediatricians!” said Lufkin parent Ann Walsh.

But opponents of the change say that the current 7:30 a.m. start time works better for their family schedules.

“An earlier start time allows me to get my child off to school safely and then to work on time,” commented Christa Myers, a Lufkin parent. “An earlier end time allows for enough time in afternoon to get homework done first and then participate in extracurricular activities/ sports. And still get to bed a decent time.”

Similar pro and con arguments were made about starting Wendell Middle School 45 minutes later at 8:15 a.m. The change would also make it easier to have enough buses to start Knightdale High School 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m.

Supporters of the Knightdale High change say the earlier time will lessen the need for athletes to miss class to attend events. They also say it will help when the students provide child care for younger siblings.

“These students already work extra hard to balance school and their sports,” said Bridget Massing, the mother of three Knightdale High student-athletes. “Missing class time has never been acceptable by me, as I have written to the AD and coaches about this in the past.”

But most of the online reaction from Knightdale parents and students has been against the earlier start. They say the students need to keep the later time to get enough sleep.

“It’s already a struggle as it is to wake up and be at school at 8:05,” said Knightdale High student Mary Aranda Morales. “Don’t make it any harder on us.”

The comments were also strongly against starting Green Elementary School in Raleigh 45 minutes later at 9:15 a.m. School administrators say the later start means Green’s schedule won’t coincide with rush-hour traffic.

But several Green teachers have said the new 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. schedule will require more families to get before- and after-school child care. They say the extra cost would be a burden to parents and note that 71.6 percent of Green students receive subsidized lunches.

“As a parent and teacher here at Green this proposed new time poses an issue with daycare before and after school,” said Green ESL teacher Amy NieKamp. “I agree with several of the posts here in which if it affects me in this manner then I can only imagine how this affects our families.”

Also under the proposed changes, Enloe High School in Raleigh would shorten its school day by 20 minutes and Fuquay-Varina Elementary School would start five minutes later at 9:15 a.m.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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