Pinellas still hammering out Thurgood Marshall start time plan
Pinellas County school administrators are still trying to arrive at an earlier start time plan for Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School, where parents have vocally opposed a 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. school day.
Assistant superintendent Mike Bessette, who oversees transportation, and superintendent John Stewart attended a parent meeting at the school Thursday and left with a rough proposal that they said would result in a school start time no later than 9 a.m., with a dismissal time of 3:45 a.m. if early-release Wednesdays are continued and 3:30 p.m, if early-release Wednesdays are eliminated.
It sounds like they're still hammering out details. But board members told administrators that if they come up with an alternative start time for the St. Petersburg middle school, it should be cost neutral.
Currently, all of the district's middle schools start at 9:30 a.m. and dismiss at 4:15 p.m., a schedule that many parents complain limits their children's opportunities for extracurricular activities at the time in their lives when they most need to be connecting with their communities.
The sticking point in any attempt to change that, according to district officials, is arriving at a district wide busing schedule for all schools and grades that can accommodate an earlier start time.
Thurgood Marshall is one of just two fundamental schools in the district to provide transportation to its students. Though parents there have argued the majority of families would be willing to forgo district busing in order to have an earlier start time, district leaders say it is imperative they offer that option so that students whose families are unable to transport them to the school are not excluded from attending.
Under the scenario district leaders say they are currently entertaining, students who needed transportation would have to be picked up at "hubs" like schools and recreation centers instead of where they are getting picked up now. And, according to the Friday Update, a weekly newsletter sent by district administrators to school board members, "there would be no guarantee that those hubs would be within two or three miles of a students' home, or on the same sice of a busy street. Parents likely would have to drive their children to the hub."
That said, the newsletter stated administrators are still looking at other options to try to get the proposed start time even earlier.