Jul 30, 2014
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School Start Time Change Gaining Steam?

Administration will look at costs associated with two new, later times for Greenfield High School, where students currently begin class at 7:10 a.m.

School Start Time Change Gaining Steam?

Greenfield School Board members appear to be coming around on changing the Greenfield High School start time.

That includes members who initially changed the start time to 7:10 a.m. about 6 years ago, and those who voted against a move to start school later in 2011.

Board members directed administration to find out busing costs associated with either moving the high school start time to 7:30 a.m. and leaving all the rest of the schools as they are now, and moving the high school to 7:45 a.m. and pushing back the Middle School by 12 minutes to 7:30 a.m. and Maple Grove and Elm Dale elementary schools back 30 minutes to 8:45 a.m., a plan proposed in 2011.

The board rejected the latter two years ago because it came with a $210,000 price tag thanks to increased busing costs.

Today’s cost, depending on how much it is, might be worth the price, Board president Bruce Bailey said.

“I’m thinking a 7:30 start time; I’d be for that,” said Bailey, who voted against the change in 2001. “I’d like to see the cost, make sure it’s not extravagant. And we pay it, we pay the cost. We go to 7:30 start time (for the high school) and then we do a district-wide study. … A 7:30 start time puts us in line with a gazillion other schools.”

High school special education teacher Cindy Sibley, a 14-year veteran said changing the school start time at a steep price doesn’t make much sense. She said the district doesn’t have enough guidance councilors — she said having just one at the Middle School was absurd — and believes a police liaison officer at the Middle School would go a long way in sending a message that the district does not tolerate bullying and fighting.

Sibley also said the district has several non-English speaking students and money could be better spent meeting their needs.

“Right now we have so many more needs where $200,000 could go and right now we’re not meeting some of our basic needs,” she said.

Board member Cathy Walsh, who was on the board when it voted to change the high school start time to 7:10 a.m., agreed those are all among the district’s concerns, but said the start-time issue shouldn’t be ignored.

“Where is the research to show that our early start time has had a good impact on our kids?” Walsh asked. “Where’s the research that shows that it ever made our test scores go up, that our kids are doing better as a result of this?

“As a board, we shouldn’t be ignoring that.”

Walsh believes the issue isn’t cut and dried and that it involves many aspects of school scheduling and the delivery of education.

Among the problems associated with the current start time is the tardy rate. The high school had 9,671 instances of first-hour tardies during 2011-12, up from 8,591 in 2010-11. The high school had more than 7,228 in the 2007-08, 08-09 and 09-10 school years after having just 4,086 in 2006-07, when school started at 7:15 a.m.

Resident Dolores Skowronek, a longtime proponent of starting high school later, said the board should do what’s right for students, and do it now.

“Four years ago I approached this board with concerns about the 7:10 start time, and I foolishly assumed that if given information about best practices and research evidence, the board of education would do the right thing and change the schedule,” she said. “I was wrong. … Stop making excuses that have nothing to do with education and stop justifying the early start time.”

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