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School board to solicit community opinion on school start times


School board to solicit community opinion on school start times

By AMBER STEWART

The Williamson County School Board has decided to engage the community over the next year on the issue of school start times.

The Williamson County School Board has decided to engage the community over the next year on the issue of school start times.

There is some interest among board and community members in flipping the start times of elementary schools with the time of middle and high schools. This would mean elementary schools would start earlier in the day, while older students would have a later start time.

The move is based on a common educational belief that older students perform better in class when the school day starts later. This could also have an impact on teenage driving accidents and mental health, both for the better.

However, WCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney was cautious, asking the board for a year of community engagement before deciding.

“My recommendation to you is to not change anything this upcoming year, to give us a year of community engagement, to survey parents, to have community meetings, to talk in depth about the pros and cons of any shift,” he said.

He did offer an alternative 7:40 a.m. start for all schools if the board wished to act immediately, but they declined to put it on the agenda for a vote.

Some concerns board members had about moving to a later start time included changing traffic patterns and the effect it could have on parents’ ability to be at work on time.

“This has the ability to be a very unifying or divisive issue for this school board and this community,” Looney said.

Board member Anne McGraw reminded the board that while the other issues are important, they are not the focal point of the board.

“As one of the parents told me today, ‘there’s not a single con that’s been listed that has to do with educating my kid,'” she said.

Many board members opposed to the shift, as well. Board member Robert Hullett was worried students would be losing family time, as well as time for sports and other after school activities.

“The 25-hour day is an illusion,” he said. “We talk about it as if we’re giving them an extra hour when, if anything, they’re going to lose it.”

Board member Kenneth Peterson suggested the notion that students are fine with having to get up early.

“They’re okay, they understand,” he said. “You have to get up and go to school. One day you have to go to work.”

Following Looney’s suggestion, board member Candace Emerson suggested her fellow board members engage the community at upcoming Let’s Talk Schools events, while board member Beth Burgos suggested having another town hall style presentation on the topic, similar to last month’s meeting on testing.

Amber Stewart reports for the Home Page Media Group. You can reach her via email at amber@homepagemediagroup.com or on Twitter @Amber_BHP

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