Board of Education decides on new school start times

Urmilla Kuttikad

School board members discuss the start time proposal, and later vote
School board members discuss the start time proposal, and later finalized the school start times for the 2013-2014 school year. Photo by Urmila Kuttikad
The Columbia Board of Education finalized the new school start times for the 2013-2014 school year at today’s Board of Education Regular Session. Middle schools and a handful of elementary schools (with the longest bus routes) will start at 7:40 a.m., the rest of the elementary schools will start at 8:20 a.m. All high schools will start at 9 a.m.
The decision follows the three-tier system, with middle schools and a few elementary schools on the first tier, elementary schools largely on the second tier and high schools on the third tier.
The decision isn’t supported by everyone. When the idea was opened up to public comment at the Regular Session, parents of all ages of children came up to voice their concern regarding the problems they saw in the proposed plan. The worries included concerns about elementary school children waiting in the dark for their buses, certain before and after school programs inevitably being cut and high school students involved in athletics having to stay too long at school.
The Board of Education, however, maintained that any decision would face backlash, and that this one was the best option under the difficult circumstances. All but one member of the Board of Education voted in favor of the proposed plan. Among other things, parents would still be able to pick up and drop off their elementary and middle school children, high school students’ schedules would be given the maximum amount of flexibility and students of all ages would get more sleep than before.
The Board of Education was in agreement that the change from this school year to the next is going to be one of the largest CPS has ever seen. They were also in agreement that this could be an extremely positive thing, affecting not just the structure and organization of the school district, but the way it fundamentally works as well, with possible zero hour and 5th hour classes.
“I think now you get to rethink, ‘what is a class?’ It’s not just a sit and get anymore,” Superintendent Chris Belcher said.” Instruction is much more virtual and flexible than it used to be.”
By Urmila Kuttikad
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This is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.
How will the new start times affect you?