BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando School Board is one step closer to making wholesale changes to school start times.
At a workshop Tuesday, the board agreed to hold public meetings to get input from parents on which of two proposed schedule changes they favor and to solicit feedback from principals.
Both options would cut costs by allowing for double bus runs.
A majority of the five board members said they liked the option that would have elementary students start earlier and middle and high school students later. The option would save an estimated $453,000 and reduce the number of buses by eight.
In a district facing a tight budget and a big cost to meet the class size amendment, the savings are key.
But board members said they supported the option because the schedules are more in time with students' natural rhythms. They cited research that shows younger students are more alert in the morning and older students take some time to wake up.
Under the proposed schedule:
• Zoned elementary schools would start between 25 and 55 minutes earlier.
• Zoned middle schools would start between 15 and 105 minutes later.
• High schools would start between 55 and 92 minutes later.
Other changes in this option: Chocachatti Elementary, a magnet school, would start 12 minutes later, and Explorer and Challenger K-8 schools would start five minutes later.
"All of the research has indicated this is beneficial to learning, and that's what we're all about," board member John Sweeney said. "We're not the first to do this. Where it's been done, it's been successful."
Board members Dianne Bonfield and Sandra Nicholson agreed.
Under the current schedule, nine schools have start times between 7:18 and 7:52. As part of the option favored by board members, the earliest bell at any school would ring at 7:55 a.m.
Chairman Pat Fagan favored the other proposed schedule. Under this proposal, nine of the district's 22 schools would have adjusted times. Six of those would start between 10 and 30 minutes later: Brooksville, Chocachatti, Eastside and Moton elementary schools, Challenger K-8 and Springstead High. The other three — Spring Hill Elementary, Central High and the STAR Education Center — would start between five and 25 minutes earlier.
The option would allow for 10 fewer buses, saving $566,000.
Also Tuesday, board members put the brakes on an idea to eliminate bus service for students who live within two miles of school, citing safety concerns.
Cutting bus service for the roughly 2,100 students who live within 2 miles of school could save as much as $1.5 million.
The district does not get reimbursed by the state for busing a large majority of those students.
Bonfield, Fagan and board member James Yant were against cutting any bus service. There aren't enough sidewalks to make it safe, they said.