Thursday, November 15, 2018
Education

Pinellas School Board votes 6-1 to approve later school start times

LARGO — Hillsborough County’s recent decision to start high schools an hour later, at 8:30 a.m., next year inspired 6,300 people in Pinellas County to sign an online petition. Citing student sleep deprivation and related health issues, they wanted their district to do the same.

But at least for the 2018-19 school year, they’ll have to settle for a more modest change.

The Pinellas School Board voted 6-1 Tuesday to push all school start times 15 or 10 minutes later starting in August.

That means most high schools will start at 7:20 a.m. rather than 7:05 a.m., and most elementary and middle schools will start 10 minutes later, at 8:45 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., respectively.

"This journey’s not finished," school superintendent Mike Grego said. "And we do want to continue to hash out what the best opportunity will be for our students."

Board member Joanne Lentino, the sole dissenting vote, said she informally surveyed high school students who said they didn’t want to change the time. She also said the 15-minute change doesn’t justify spending $900,000, the price tag for hiring the added bus drivers that will be needed.

Associate superintendent Clint Herbic, tasked with developing new start times, said the district probably would have spent that amount anyway to shorten already-lengthy routes, even if the new times were not approved.

"If you have a child that’s in a high school or a middle school and you have the ability to have your child go to sleep a little earlier, I think that would be a responsibility that would fall to the parent," Lentino said. "Maybe a child doesn’t want to go to sleep at 10 o’clock."

The remark drew exasperated chuckles from supporters of a later high school start time who came to Tuesday’s meeting dressed in red.

Lentino explained later in an interview that there was not enough Pinellas-specific data to show that a later high school start time would lead to the hoped-for benefits, including higher graduation rates, lower obesity rates and fewer teen car crashes. Some parents have touted those outcomes, citing studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"We had no data to show that it would change," Lentino said.

After the vote, Melissa Gallivan, who organized the petition, addressed board members during the public comment period before she was cut off.

"When more than one School Board member denies or downplays the studies and then goes into the community and takes informal surveys and does not share or explain the dangers of start times, of course everyone walks away not wanting change and they bring that back to their friends," she said. "Is that how we make policy in Pinellas County?"

Also Tuesday, the board gave initial approval to a plan to transform the struggling Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg into the Center for Cultural Arts & Gifted Studies.

District officials proposed eliminating the school’s middle grades and making it an elementary gifted center for south county students and a cultural arts magnet for neighborhood students for the 2018-19 school year.

Students in the cultural arts magnet would enjoy field trips to surrounding institutions like the Dalí Museum, the Carter G. Woodson Museum, Mahaffey Theater, the Florida Orchestra and the Morean Arts Center, and get gifted-level services as part of a "schoolwide enrichment model."

The school will not accept any kindergarten students for the gifted program, but will accept kindergarten applications for the cultural arts program. The application window will be open from Monday to May 4.

Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

Comments
Florida education news: K-12 funding, college access, school naming and more

Florida education news: K-12 funding, college access, school naming and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Published: 11/14/18
The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: Marc Topkin on Rays’ manager Kevin Cash falling short of the top AL manager award; Graham Brink on why Amazon just isn’t that into Tampa Bay; and Tom Jones on why the Bucs are keeping Jameis Winston on the bench.
Published: 11/14/18
Man who defrauded area charter schools sentenced to 20 years in prison

Man who defrauded area charter schools sentenced to 20 years in prison

The mastermind behind a scheme to defraud charter schools in seven Florida counties, including Pinellas and Hillsborough, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison.Marcus May, 56, was also ordered to pay $5 million in fines to the state by Escambia...
Published: 11/13/18
Nearly 100 ideas to rename Tampa’s Lee Elementary

Nearly 100 ideas to rename Tampa’s Lee Elementary

From the obvious to the ironic and back again, Hillsborough residents racked their collective brains to find the best new name for Lee Elementary School.MaryEllen Elia was suggested, for the last superintendent.But that won't happen. A newly revised ...
Published: 11/13/18
Losing Hudson and Mittye P. Locke elementaries? Pasco parents, students and teachers push back against proposed school closings

Losing Hudson and Mittye P. Locke elementaries? Pasco parents, students and teachers push back against proposed school closings

Two west Pasco schools are recommended for closure as officials seek to consolidate students and programs. Reaction to the idea hasn't been overly positive.
Published: 11/13/18
USF and other Florida universities join nationwide effort to improve college access

USF and other Florida universities join nationwide effort to improve college access

Together, they will "create a playbook of adaptable student success reforms," USF said.
Published: 11/13/18
Florida education news: Prekindergarten, parent pushback, school board races and more

Florida education news: Prekindergarten, parent pushback, school board races and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Published: 11/13/18
The Daystarter: Will clock run out on Florida recount?; Millennials and their home-buying habits; Bucs make change at kicker

The Daystarter: Will clock run out on Florida recount?; Millennials and their home-buying habits; Bucs make change at kicker

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today. • Slight chance of showers later this morning and a chance of early afternoon thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service. Skies will be partly sunny with a high nea...
Published: 11/13/18
Hillsborough takes heart from a new number: More kids were prepared for kindergarten this year.

Hillsborough takes heart from a new number: More kids were prepared for kindergarten this year.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County educators are pointing to a significant upturn in the number of kids who showed up for kindergarten this year ready to learn, a key indicator that bodes well for students as they move through the public school syste...
Published: 11/12/18
Florida education news: School funding, board members, student testing and more

Florida education news: School funding, board members, student testing and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Published: 11/12/18