School board expects decision on late-start for high schools by December


By Daniel Davidson, Editor-in-Chief

The school board plans to vote on a motion to push back high school start times from 8:05 to 9 a.m. during the board’s next meeting in December.

The board initially showed interest in delaying start times for the 2015-2016 school year when the original late start committee was formed. Although the board took no action at that time, a new committee reported results of studies conducted on the policy to the board yesterday, Nov. 25.

The research process involved surveying hundreds of administrators, teachers, students in eighth through eleventh grades and families on interest in late start and taking zero hour classes. Community members were asked about after school activities and transportation needs.

Although enrollment in zero hours remains at 12 percent now, more than 60 percent of students surveyed reported interest in taking a class at 7:30 or 8 if school began at a later time. With the focus of late start to be increased flexibility for student needs, an increase of students taking a zero hour raises concerns over transportation and staffing costs.

Another primary concern for board members is how sports and other after school activities would be affected by a later start time. To reduce class time missed and reduce how late practices go, the committee has considered several flexible policies to accommodate.

Several options mentioned by the board to resolve this include counting sports as gym credits, a mandatory online off-campus course and forcing students in sports to take a zero hour.

For board member Rick Ingram, the research makes the answer clear.

“If you look at the research, there’s less depression and anxiety,” Ingram said. “They do better in class, there are less tardies, there are less absenteeisms.”

Other members, however, supported the policy in concept but had reservations about implementation.

Board member G.R. Gordon-Ross said he was concerned that the committee’s estimated costs could be too inaccurate and strain other parts of the budget. Exact numbers cannot be accessed until students actually enroll.

Because enrollment for next year’s classes begins around February/March, Ingram said passing the policy now is important to give schools plenty of time to adjust to the change.

“We’re looking for the perfect time to implement this,” Ingram said. “There will never be a perfect time. We will never do it if we wait…”

The current disparity between Lawrence High and Free State’s zero hour course options concerned board member Jessica Beeson. Beeson worried students would not see zero hour as a possibility because of limited selection. Currently, Lawrence High only has two zero hour classes: weight training and student council.

Agreeing a 9 a.m. start time was ideal, board members decided to vote on a motion by the committee during their next meeting on Dec. 9.