Staff editorial: GISD doesn’t need to change start times

During its Nov. 27 meeting, school board president Larry Glick presented the board with a proposal that would potentially change high school start times to around 9 a.m. This proposal comes during a national trend that schedules later start times for high school in order to improve student performance. For some school districts, later start times have brought in higher test scores, less absences and more energy for students. However, for Garland ISD, changing school start times is unnecessary and unbeneficial due to the issue of busing magnet students, the expensive startup costs and the struggles that come with later release times.

In 1987, the three-tiered school start times were put in place to accommodate the addition of Kimberlin, Hillside, and Austin as magnet schools because buses needed time to transport students from all over the district to these schools.

According to the research Glick provided during the meeting, students at Minneapolis schools with an 8:37 a.m. start time slept an hour later and had less difficulty staying awake during school than students at a school with a 7:15 a.m. start time. However, if high schools would get out at 4 p.m., students might sleep an extra hour but would end up losing necessary free time during the day. Magnet students who live the furthest from the school and take the bus would get home around 5:30 p.m., and that’s if they did not participate in any extracurricular activities. With the amount of homework given to students in honors and AP courses, they could be going to sleep later than 10 p.m. Such sleeping rituals mean activities will be scheduled much later.

Teens who work after school would have fewer opportunities to work due to getting home later, which could affect their family’s income. During the winter, students who walk home and participate in later after school activities would be heading home in the dark, an unsafe situation that would cause parents to worry. On top of that stress, this scheduling would mean that school would release closer to rush hour, around 4 to 6 p.m., increasing hassles for all drivers. And teens who take care of younger siblings in elementary schools would not have supervision of them for over an hour.

Currently, Brandenburg and Vial middle schools share a bus route, as do North and Jackson Technology center. If the proposal goes through, it has been recommended that these schools split and create their own routes. New busses, additional space, more drivers and fuel would need to be added to accommodate this change adding up to around $10 million. The district could make better use of taxpayer money by improving school interiors than to waste it on a plan that may or may not benefit its students.

Before implementing such a sweeping change, the district should survey students and their families in order to get an idea on how this will affect them. Although promising, relying on data from other school districts is not wise when making such a critical decision for our specific district.

 

Read more about the proposal here: https://www.raiderecho.com/news/2013/12/18/school-board-proposes-new-school-start-times/