Thursday, August 16, 2018
Education

Hillsborough proposes starting high school at 8:30 a.m., elementary school at 7:40 a.m.

TAMPA — A new plan for public school times in Hillsborough County seeks to ease sleep deprivation for high school students and put magnet programs on more attractive schedules.

If adopted by the School Board next week, it will save money and cut down on late buses, officials said Tuesday.

And, unlike last year's rushed effort to change school schedules, it follows months of surveys, emails and face-to-face conversations with students, teachers and parents.

"The board pushed me to look for more ways to garner input," superintendent Jeff Eakins said as he unveiled a plan that would flip elementary with high school start times.

"We are responding to our community and listening to what you are telling us," he said.

Under the plan elementary school will run from 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m., high school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. and middle school from 9:25 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.

Magnet schools will be open from 8:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for the elementary grades, and 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. for middle and high schools.

That's about an hour later than the current system for magnets, which has buses picking students up as early as 5 a.m. "This may also help more families consider magnet options," Eakins said.

The changes would take effect at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Parents are advised to check the district website for individual schools, as some will vary.

TODAY'S GRADEBOOK PODCAST: How Hillsborough came up with its new school bell times

The schedule, which was celebrated on social media, is not universally popular — no plan could be. And there were some complaints about 35 minutes that would be cut from the high school day.

But it aligns with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is concerned about adolescent sleep needs. And it acknowledges studies such as one from Columbia University that linked inadequate sleep to obesity. Other research on teen sleep habits warns of impaired judgment and unsafe driving.

Immediately, Tuesday's announcement raised a question: If a large, complex district like Hillsborough could pull off a switch to later high school start times, could neighboring districts do it too?

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning said he was too busy with other matters to discuss it. Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego said his district is studying bus schedules. But at this point, he did not know how he could push back the 7:05 a.m. high school start without making all schools start later.

The move in Hillsborough will require some adjustments.

To save money, the district had planned to end most bus rides within two miles of a school, a practice known as courtesy busing, for elementary students.

That plan is on hold for at least a year as parents adjust to the earlier hours, Eakins said.

High schools will have to shave two or three minutes from each period in order to continue a seven-class schedule, which students enjoy because they can take more electives, college and remedial courses. Lunch and passing times between classes will likely be affected.

The district also will need more after-school care at the elementary schools, which will dismiss 20 minutes earlier; and before-school care at the middle schools, which will start 25 minutes later.

But in many ways, Eakins said, the plan makes things easier.

Schools that the state has designated for extra reading time can stay open a half hour later without running up against the high school bus runs, as the two will now be separated by 90 minutes.

Eakins also revised his prior thinking on the need for many high school students to be dismissed in time for their part time jobs.

There probably will not be much difference, he said, as under the current system, students spend so much time waiting for buses that are late.

Eakins has argued all along that the change was not just about saving $2.7 million a year in making more efficient use of the bus fleet, but about students' need for a full day of school.

With just 30 minutes separating the high school and elementary school morning runs, he has argued, too many young children are starting their day late.

"No longer can this superintendent put his head on the pillow at night, knowing that 12,000 students are going to be late the next day," he said.

In fact, to sell the public on the need for a change, district officials adopted the mantra, "every student deserves a full day."

The district's campaign comes in sharp contrast to the previous year's efforts, in which committees met for six months before disclosing their plans to the public in the spring.

That earlier schedule would have started high school at 7:15 a.m. Parents were furious about the times, the late notice, and the secrecy.

This time, district leaders sought input through a simulator that allowed users to design schedules, and an online survey in English and Spanish. Reminders were emailed to parents in a deliberate attempt to get a large response.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Gradebook podcast — Why don't more Florida high schools start classes at 9 a.m.?

Eakins said a schedule similar to the one that is now proposed was the overwhelming favorite.

"But I will tell you, there has been nothing about this process that has been easy," he said.

"This is impacting millions of people — not just the parents and the students, this is impacting everyone."

The district is still taking feedback on the proposal in advance of the Tuesday board meeting. Those with concerns can send emails to [email protected]

Times Staff Writers Colleen Wright and Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report. Contact Marlene Sokol at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected] Follow @marlenesokol.

Comments
Florida girl denied school lunch because she was 15 cents short, mother says

Florida girl denied school lunch because she was 15 cents short, mother says

A sophomore at University High School in Volusia County was denied lunch on her first day of school Tuesday because she owed 15 cents, according to WKMG in Orlando.The girl’s mother, Kimberly Aiken, told WKMG a cashier in the school’s lunchroom threw...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Candidates for Hernando’s District 3 School Board seat talk mental health, technical education

Candidates for Hernando’s District 3 School Board seat talk mental health, technical education

As Hernando County School Board member Beth Narverud makes her run for a spot on the County Commission, three hopefuls are running to fill her District 3 seat.One is Jimmy Lodato, a Tampa native and 19-year Hernando resident. Retired from a career in...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Brooksville pastor challenges longtime principal trying for reelection to Hernando’s District 5 School Board seat

Brooksville pastor challenges longtime principal trying for reelection to Hernando’s District 5 School Board seat

Hernando County School Board District 5 incumbent Susan Duval seconded the motion to fire superintendent Lori Romano on June 12. And that’s why Joe Santerelli said he filed to run against her about a week later.A week after that, the local pastor spo...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Corbett Prep marks 50th year with compassionate stories, family love

Corbett Prep marks 50th year with compassionate stories, family love

TAMPA — Sammi Borosh sat Tuesday afternoon in one of those tiny chairs for kindergartners and looked across the table at four of her former teachers — and her eyes misted.Borosh said she loved those four ladies and she loved the school where they tau...
Published: 08/15/18
Incumbent chairman and newcomer battle for Hernando’s District 1 School Board seat

Incumbent chairman and newcomer battle for Hernando’s District 1 School Board seat

Mark Johnson was elected to the Hernando County School Board in 2014. He said his successful track record, combined with local business savvy, make him the clear choice over Catherine "Kay" Hatch for the District 1 seat."It’s not just an opportunity ...
Published: 08/15/18
For this Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, start of school is ‘beginning of the end’

For this Marjory Stoneman Douglas student, start of school is ‘beginning of the end’

Barbara Ojago saw her grandson’s first day back at school as the beginning of the end.Her grandson, Emea, will finish his senior year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. But Emea returns to a school forever changed by a former student he pe...
Published: 08/15/18
Pinellas plans new arts and gifted magnet schools in north county

Pinellas plans new arts and gifted magnet schools in north county

Next school year, if all goes according to plan, two new programs will expand the slate of options for Pinellas County elementary students — a conservatory for the arts in Clearwater and a gifted center in Palm Harbor.The programs, which will go befo...
Published: 08/15/18
Report card on ousted Hernando schools superintendent shows little change from last year

Report card on ousted Hernando schools superintendent shows little change from last year

BROOKSVILLE — Two months after firing superintendent Lori Romano, the Hernando County School Board on Tuesday reviewed results of a second district-wide survey to evaluate her performance, finding that little changed from last year.Romano’s overall a...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco schools don’t plan to move teachers over state scores

Florida school districts recently received their teachers’ state "value-added" scores, and some scrambled to reassign those who got poor marks out of schools in turnaround status.But Pasco County wasn’t one of them, despite state rules relating to pe...
Published: 08/15/18
Hillsborough schools will begin disclosing more data about lead in drinking water

Hillsborough schools will begin disclosing more data about lead in drinking water

TAMPA ­­— The Hillsborough County School District will begin publicly disclosing all locations where it finds lead in schools’ water, not just the samples that tested highest, an official said Tuesday.Detailed results from the testing lab could begin...
Published: 08/14/18