After months of deliberation, the Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday singled out a proposal to move school start times 10 and 15 minutes later this fall and voted to approve the change 6-1.
Most high schools will now start 15 minutes later at 7:20 a.m., with most elementary and middle schools starting 10 minutes later at 8:45 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., respectively.
See the full list of proposed high school start times here on PDF page 148.
Board member Joanne Lentino was the sole dissenting board member. Her exact reason for voting against the proposed times was not exactly clear, however she said high school students have told her that they are not in favor of the change and she alluded that the extra $900,000 the district will spend is not be worth a 15-minute change.
Lentino also said the responsibility falls on parents to have their children go to sleep earlier. The 20 or so audience members in red shirts, presumed to be in favor of a petition to move high school start times to 8:30 a.m., let out exasperated laughs.
After the vote was held, Melissa Gallivan, the creator of the petition, addressed the vote during public comment before she was cut off.
"When more than one School Board member denies or downplays the studies…of course everyone walks away not wanting change and they bring that back to their friends. Is that how we make policy in Pinellas County?"
Lentino clarified her stance after the meeting, explaining that there was not enough Pinellas-specific data to show that a later high school start time would lead to the benefits, including higher graduation rates, lower obesity rates and fewer teen car crashes, that parents have cited in studies.
"We had no data to show that it would change," she said.
Lentino said the 10-minute change was not worth the $900,000 the district will spend to hire 18 additional drivers.
"Get specific, lady," she said, referring to Melissa Gallivan, the creator of a petition to push high school start times back to 8:30 a.m. "They do these knee-jerk reactions."
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.