Thursday, January 18, 2018
Education

Reaction mixed to Hernando County schools' new bell schedules

Nature Coast Technical High School freshman Alissa Augugliaro said it has been difficult waking up this week for the school's new 7:30 a.m. start time.

Especially coming from a school last year that started two hours later.

Despite the early hour, however, the 14-year-old says it's a positive change.

"I think it's better," Augugliaro said. "More people can get their volunteering hours in."

That's what she is doing, twice a week, at nearby Chocachatti Elementary.

With two days in the rearview mirror, students and parents came away with decidedly mixed reactions about the new bell times that went into effect this school year across the district.

Nine schools saw their times change by more than 30 minutes. Five changed by more than 90 minutes, and nearly every school saw some degree of change. Most high schools and middle schools are starting at either 7:15 or 7:30 a.m.; elementary and K-8 schools are starting at 9:15 a.m.

The times were changed as part of an effort to align bus routes, a move that saved the district an estimated $888,000.

Samantha Oliveira, 16, a Nature Coast junior and soccer player, said it's taken some adjusting, but it's ultimately better for her.

"I like it because we get out a lot earlier than we did last year," she said. "We're going to have earlier practices, so that means we're going to get out of here earlier, which is more time for homework and everything else."

Many other parents and students said the difference didn't phase them or have a significant impact on their schedules. Some said it didn't affect them, but they could see how other parents would have difficulties.

Some were just not fans of the change.

Isabel Chaves, a 16-year-old junior at Central High, disliked the early start last year. The extra 15 minutes this year is just that much worse.

"I don't enjoy waking up at 5 a.m., that's for sure," Chaves said. "(Last year's time) was better. I got to sleep in a bit longer."

Erick Arnett, who has a son at Nature Coast, questioned the decision to move the school times earlier.

"It's kind of ridiculous," he said.

He wondered how parents will manage the earlier end times for high school students.

"Your teenage kid is getting out of school at 2 p.m.," he said Monday afternoon as he sat in line waiting to pick up his sophomore son. "If you're a working family, your kids are home for three hours doing whatever. Or the parent has to quit their job or get a part-time job."

He also wondered whether the early start times were the best thing for teenagers, who might have trouble learning at that hour of the day.

"I thought they would push it up instead of backward," he said. "I don't know what the reasoning was."

Even with the new start times, there were relatively few problems reported across the district as the new school year got under way.

The biggest issue appeared to have cropped up at Central High School, where some parents were upset with the way the school attempted to collect outstanding student fees and uncollected textbooks.

Principal Joe Clifford attempted to collect the fees and textbooks or set up a payment plan for students with outstanding obligations before they got their class schedules Monday. Some parents felt their kids were being unfairly pointed out. Clifford said he had an obligation to taxpayers to try and collect the roughly $29,000 in fees and textbooks before the school year began.

Even with numerous recent changes to bus routes in the district, the first day was largely free of major transportation issues, said Douglas Compton, the district's transportation director.

He said a handful of buses were delayed and a few students got on the wrong bus before eventually being taken to the correct school.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said he was satisfied with how the start of the school year went.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.

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