Wake Ed

Wake County school board changes start times for six schools

The media center was one of several locations at Knightdale High School where high schoolers teamed up with students from Lake Myra Elementary School for an Hour of Code session on Dec. 8, 2015. Now Knightdale High students will have to start school 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. starting in August 2016.
The media center was one of several locations at Knightdale High School where high schoolers teamed up with students from Lake Myra Elementary School for an Hour of Code session on Dec. 8, 2015. Now Knightdale High students will have to start school 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. starting in August 2016. amoody@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board approved Tuesday bell schedules for the 2016-17 school year that will change the start and end times for six schools.

The new schedules will shift the school day by as much as 45 minutes for some students. The changes are supposed to help Wake improve bus service as it transports more than 75,000 riders each day.

The vote came after the proposed changes drew more than 240 comments on the school system’s online discussion forum. Some changes drew mostly negative responses.

“Bell schedules are often very situational depending on the individual needs of a family and we have to consider the entire school,” said school board Chairman Tom Benton before the vote. “We recognize that although this was ‘only’ six schools, if it’s your child and family impacted it’s very important.”

Many of the changes are connected because Wake saves money by having 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.

Knightdale High School will start 40 minutes earlier at 7:25 a.m. and Wendell Middle School will start 45 minutes later at 8:15 a.m. Wendell Middle’s change will allow the district to have enough time to transport students to Knightdale High.

Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex will start 45 minutes later at 8:15 a.m. so that there will be enough time to transport students to Apex Friendship High, which is keeping its 7:25 a.m. start time but is expecting more students as it adds a junior class this fall.

Green Elementary School in Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina Elementary School are both shifting to a 9:15 a.m. start time. But while it’s only a five-minute later start at Fuquay-Varina, it’s a 45-minute later opening at Green.

Green parents and teachers voiced overwhelming dissatisfaction on the forum about the later start.

School board member Christine Kushner, whose district includes Green, acknowledged that this is the second change in recent years at Green, which used to start at 7:45 a.m. But she also noted how Green in recent years has become a magnet school and will be getting a newly rebuilt school campus.

“I do recognize that we’re shifting their schedule yet again,” Kushner said of Green. “But I think, all told, it’s going to be a successful school.”

Enloe High School in Raleigh will shorten its day by 20 minutes with a 7:25 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. schedule.

On the online forum, some parents and students had pointed to research that says middle schools and high schools shouldn’t start earlier than 8:30 a.m. to give teens more time to sleep. But some parents backed earlier start times, saying it helps with their family schedules and means students will have more time in the afternoon for sports, homework and other activities.

Some parents complained that starting elementary schools at 9:15 a.m. will force them to pay for before- and after-school child care.

“We understand that many families find the late start schedules for elementary schools problematic with their work schedules,” said school board member Susan Evans. “We understand that many families find the really early schedules for the middle school and high school students to be problematic. We wish we had a perfect solution for that.”

But Evans said they need to run the buses in a way that will allow the district to be as efficient with its funds as possible.

The majority of the online reaction for the changes at Lufkin and Wendell were positive. The reaction was mostly negative to the changes at Green and Knightdale.

Most of the online comments supported shortening the Enloe school day but asked for a later start as well.

Wake also set the schedules for five new schools opening this summer. Beaverdam, Oakview, Pleasant Grove and White Oak elementary schools will run from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Pine Hollow Middle School will run from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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