The Chesterfield County School Board will consider a proposal that would change middle and high school starting times for the 2018-19 school year and spread elementary school starting times across all three existing tiers with slightly modified starting times at each level. As part of the proposal, school division leaders will begin a discussion with the School Board about identifying funding in future operating plans to purchase enough buses over a 10-year period to create a two-tier system that would allow all students to start school after 8:30 a.m.
The recommendation, to be made during a School Board work session on Tuesday, will be posted at 4 p.m. on the School Board’s website.
The proposal includes these school operating schedules:
The proposal aligns starting times for 11 high schools with research-based recommendations. Currently, the school division’s high school schedule does not align with medical research. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Centers for Disease Control all suggest high school starting times should be later than the 7:25 a.m. schedule in Chesterfield County.
The proposal moves seven middle schools to the earliest tier, where they will join four middle schools that already start at 7:35 a.m. Keeping middle schools away from the last tier also solves parent and teacher concerns posed about opportunities and costs associated with later extracurricular activities.
The proposal only alters most elementary school operating times by 10 minutes and keeps the majority of elementary schools in the last school tier, a request often made by parents who were concerned about elementary school children arriving home earlier than older siblings who could watch them after school. Keeping the majority of elementary schools last also means 5- and 6-year olds will not be at bus stops during the morning while it is dark. (The elementary schools that would start at 7:45 a.m. have shorter bus routes and should not result in children being at the bus stop before dark.)
School division leaders believe the recommendation is the least disruptive option considered among any potential changes discussed in the last year during a series of community forums. After the forums, approximately 14,000 residents participated in an online survey about the three options presented to the community. Seven in 10 respondents said starting times should change.
Among the most frequently left comments made on the survey was that the school division needed to reduce proposed costs, which ranged from $5.2-7 million annually in the first three options presented. Operations team leaders sharpened their pencils and went back to work. Tuesday’s proposal is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 million annually, a total that will cover expenses related to 30 new bus drivers, fuel and maintenance. Discussion about moving to a two-tier transportation system would be considered in future budget requests.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2018 operating budget also includes $500,000 to address bus driver salaries, as the school division ramps up recruitment efforts early. A public hearing on the FY 2018 operating budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the Public Meeting Room, 10001 Iron Bridge Road.
Comments about the proposed budget and proposed changes to starting times can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.