School board gives high schools flexible start times

Not all students will start classes at 9 A.M., but more have the option


By Nola Levings

Students may have the opportunity to start school at 9 a.m. next year after school board members voted unanimously to give students a late-start option at their board meeting on Monday night.

Students choosing to attend for 7 class periods will still have an 8 a.m. start time option.

During November’s meeting, the Late Start Time Implementation Committee presented feedback from the school community. These results included survey data from students, administrators and teachers from eighth through 11th grades, as well as families and community members.

Another report presented on Monday recommended that the board not change the official start time but offer a 9 a.m. start time as an option. The presentation consisted of zero hour student demographics, transportation totals, current graduation requirements and options for changing those requirements, and a possible six-period advisory schedule.

Interim principal of Lawrence High, Cynthia Johnson, said LHS is exploring options for more zero hour classes but warns greater student interest will be needed.

Survey data collected from teachers showed that they are against changing the official start time immediately, and those feelings were backed by board member Kelly Jones.

“I’m especially concerned about all of the feedback that we’re seeing from staff, and I know that what we should be doing is focusing on our students,” Jones said. “But I would argue that by not acknowledging the feelings and concerns of our staff, that we are not doing what’s best for students.”

Jones continued with her opinion on the mental health of students and how homework practices play into that issue. Board member Rick Ingram said he worried about the consequences of an  overload of homework.

“How many of you have seen people nod off in your classes? And they’re doing that because they’re not getting enough sleep. So here’s what they’re doing,” Ingram said, pulling out an empty Red Bull can. “And sometimes they’re doing more than one a day.” Ingram pulled out another Red Bull energy drink.

Students and staff from Lawrence High also voiced their concerns. CTE teacher Mike Evans said after-school activities, such as debate and forensics, could be negatively impacted by other schools in the Sunflower League not having the same starting time, especially if school ended later. Junior Trinity Shorter shared her concerns that changing the start time wouldn’t help the issue of less sleep and that with a later start time, students would just stay up later.

The school board added a request for an update on a communication plan and on course enrollment impact at the end of the 2020-21 school year.