Superintendent David Moore wants high school students to start classes later in the morning than the current 7:10 a.m, a change advocated for the past year by School Board member Tiffany Justice.
Moore, who took over leadership of the school district last month, previously served as an assistant superintendent in the Miami-Dade district where school start times were advanced after three years of research. He said is in favor of a similar change here and has already begun pitching it to the School Board and to the public.
“Our research shows that later start times improve academic performance,” Moore told the School Board in December. “It is a big change and it takes time to implement so you have to move aggressively.”
Pre-K and elementary classes currently start between 8:40 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. Middle school students begin school at 8 a.m. The school day for high school students starts at 7:10 a.m.
Board members expressed most concern about the early start time for high school students. It wasn’t clear if start times for other grade levels might be altered as well.
Justice said her concern is that many students, especially during the winter, are standing outside in the dark waiting for buses to pick them up. Waiting in the dark is dangerous because students often can’t be seen by passing motorists, she said.
Moore and Justice said research also indicates that later start times reduce student tardiness, absences and truancy.
Justice pitched the later school days to the School Board at least three times in 2019 but was never been able to muster enough support to bring the issue to a vote.
Board Chairman Laura Zorc, Vice-Chairman Mara Schiff, and board members Jacqueline Rosario and Teri Barenborg all voiced support after Moore embraced the idea.
“In the past, my concern is that I’ve seen conflicting research – some research shows it has no effect,” Zorc told Moore. “But if you can show me research that shows it will help our students, I will support it.”
Many details and issues need to be considered, including added busing costs and how a later school day will affect afterschool activities and events, Moore said. It also will take time to convince parents that the change is needed.
Liz Cannon, president of the local teachers union, did not say whether she supports the idea. But she did note that the change would not require union approval.
“Our contract only specifies an eight-hour day, not what hours specifically,” Cannon said.
No timetable for implementing school start time schedule changes has been determined, Moore said.