School board proposes new school start times

Elise Coleman, Editor-in-Chief

In light of recent studies suggesting that later start times improve student performance among high school students, school board president Larry Glick put the suggestion on the school board’s agenda at its Nov. 27 meeting.  The issue will not be voted on for some time until the other board members gather more information.

“I’ve talked about this now for several years,” Glick said during the Nov. 27 board meeting. “The trend in the United States is in one direction, and that direction is for high schools to have later start times.”

In the 1987-88 school year, Garland ISD staggered the start times to accommodate the addition of Austin, Kimberlin and Hillside as magnet schools. If an adjustment were to be made now, one proposal would hold high school hours from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., middle school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and elementary school from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Alternatively, another proposal would have both middle and high schools start at 9 a.m. running until 4:10 p.m. and elementary schools running from 8 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

“In any staggered schedule, from a transportation stand point, it makes no difference in what order we transport our kids,” transportation director Brian Abbett said. “With any schedule we’ve got, regardless of who the first campus is, if we maintain a 7:30 start, the first student will be picked up at 6 simply because we are covering the entire district on our magnet programs.”

Currently, some bus routes combine students from more than one school. By going with the first proposal, GISD would have to purchase 95 buses. More parking spaces, additional bus drivers, and fueling capability add up to over $10 million in startup costs.

“Under a triple staggered schedule, a lot of our high school routes are at capacity and a lot of our middle school routes are at capacity,” Abbett said. “If you go to a double staggered schedule and try to combine those areas into the same schedule then obviously the number of buses would be insufficient with what we got now. One quick study we did was that sharing routes would result in an estimated 80 additional buses.”

According to the information that was presented at the board meeting, students at Minneapolis schools with an 8:37 a.m. had less difficulty staying awake during school than students at a school with a 7:15 a.m. start time. Minneapolis and its suburbs showed an improvement in attendance, reduced tardiness and a decrease in the number of students making fewer trips to the nurse. The suburban school districts also reported that students gained an hour of sleep and had more time to eat breakfast. Urban districts did not see any significant improvements in student performance. In fact, fewer students participated in extracurricular activities and had more conflicts with after school jobs.

“The latest [school district changing start times] is Carrollton-Farmers Branch which in 2011 switched their start times. I had a chance two weeks ago to talk to Mr. James Goode, who’s the board president at Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Mrs. Georgeanne Warnock, who’s the associate superintendent there. When this change took place, she was the principal at RL Turner, one of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch high schools. Their reports, two years after this are all very positive. They thought there would be more problems with parents. There were almost none. So it’s something we need to think about. The whole trend in this country is understanding the most important thing- and I think that’s why I bring it up- what we do here has to be for the kids.”


Read what we think about the time change here: