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Chesterfield County approves new school starting times

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – Chesterfield school leaders voted Tuesday night to approve proposed school start time changes beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

The changes come after experts argued that Chesterfield high school students were leaving for school entirely too early, some as early as 5:40 a.m. The start time for high school students is currently 7:25 a.m. in Chesterfield.

A research study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that students who don’t get enough sleep often suffer from physical and mental health issues, an increased risk of car accidents and a decline in academic performance.

Beginning in 2018, schools will operate on the following schedules:

  • 7:35 a.m.-2:05 p.m.: Middle schools (with the exception of Tomahawk Creek Middle)
  • 7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m.: Bensley, Bon Air, Crenshaw, Clover Hill, Jacobs Road and Wells elementary schools
  • 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.: All high schools, Tomahawk Creek Middle and Alberta Smith, Chalkley, Grange Hall, Matoaca and Salem Church elementary schools
  • 9:25 a.m.-3:55 p.m.: All remaining elementary schools

The changes align starting times for 11 high schools with research-based recommendations.

Changing school times have been a topic of conversation for over 20 years. Now that it’s finally happening, Chesterfield parents have mixed reactions.

Anne Moss Rogers is very much in favor of high school students starting later. She lost her son to suicide. He was a former Chesterfield student who took his own life at age 20, with his depression starting in high school.

“Lack of sleep exacerbates the symptoms and he started having suicidal ideation in high school and we're seeing that among more high school students these days,” said Rogers.

While Rogers believes this is the best option for high schoolers, other parents are concerned with elementary students starting later.

Allison Wirt says school leaders didn’t take into account how the changes could affect elementary students.

“It will significantly impact their attention span,” said Wirt. “I think it's a disservice to the elementary students and not considering the optimal learning time for these kids.”

The changes are estimated to cost approximately $1.5 million annually, a total that will cover expenses related to 30 new bus drivers, fuel and maintenance.

Stay with CBS 6 for the latest on this developing story.