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Chesterfield School Board ponders new start times for different grades

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CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- When kindergartner Connor Lord gets off his Chesterfield school bus, his mom says it’s after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

“He’s already wiped out by then,” says Jennifer Lord.  “So I would hope he would never get home later than that.”

However, Chesterfield school leaders are considering pushing all school schedules back by 40 minutes, in an effort to allow a later start time for high school students.

Chesterfield high schools currently start at 7:20 a.m., while middle schools start between 7:35 - 8:25 a.m.  Elementary school start times range from 8:25 to 9:15 a.m..

The Chesterfield School Board is considering six different schedule plans in all, including flipping high school and middle school start times or combining high school and middle school start times (see below).  The cost ranges anywhere from $1.2 million to $34 million, based on the number of additional buses that would be needed to transport students.

The time changes were recommended at a recent school board retreat and are also the result of a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The study found that teenagers perform better academically, and are involved in less car crashes, when they get more sleep.

Midlothian High School Senior, Robert Cross, says the early start time can be taxing.  Cross says many students work afternoon jobs or participate in after school sports, which means late nights for homework and studying.

“When you go to bed past midnight and wake up before 7, it’s hard to stay awake,” Cross says.

Andy Hawkins, Chesterfield’s Assistant Superintendent of Finance, says school leaders must consider cost and the impact it could have on younger students.

Hawkins says that bus drivers are required to bring elementary students back to school if an adult or guardian is not at home.   The scenario could lead to delayed times for buses picking up high school students from school.

“We probably have 20 to 30 children every day that when they get off the school bus, their parent or guardian is supposed to pick them up,”  Hawkins says.

Hawkins says the school board will seek public input over the next few months.  If school leaders decide to implement schedule changes, a decision will have to be made before March 1.

Chesterfield parent, Angela Cassano, says she hopes school leaders carefully weigh their options.

“You have to weigh the risks and benefits of both,” Cassano says.  “But you’ve also got to realize that a lot of dominoes will fall if this shifts.”

The options are below.

school times

10 comments

  • aleinva

    Interesting proposals. I saw an article, years ago, about how the fact that it takes high school aged children longer to become fully awake and that later start times facilitate better learning in that age group. It would be nice to be able to do something that takes that into consideration. The cost is a major concern though.

  • Aaron

    This is an honest thought on this. If the times are pushed back wouldn’t most kids just go to bed later and in the end be in the same boat all over again. Looks nice on paper but I know that is what I would have done if they had done this a little over a decade ago (when I was in HS).

  • J.Wayne Creech

    Alot of money which means a big tax increase. A simple solution is to set a bedtime for the students and leave it alone…..Why do these kids go to bed at midnight? Set a block on their cell phones to 9 pm. Bedtime at 10 pm…..And for the children that are dropped off and there is no parent there, this is child neglect I would say?

    • Beth Hewitt

      Let’s do the math Mr. Creech. They go to bed at 10:00 p.m. The recommendation for high school students is 9 1/4 hours. So they get up at 7:15 a.m. The problem is that the bus left at 6:30 a.m. They should get up at 5:45 a.m. to have 45 minutes to shower, dress, eat a good breakfast and walk to the bus stop. This would mean that they would have to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. What high school student goes to bed at 8:30 p.m.?

      • Mr. Sandman

        One who needs 9 1/4 hours sleep, Ms. Hewitt. Using your math, even if start times were pushed back to 945 am at greater taxpayer expense, they would still have to go to bed by 11 pm which is an hour earlier than the time cited in the article. Of course they would also get home 2.5 hours later than they do now. In acoord with SJ’s comment, getting home later means they have to stay up later to do homework, eat dinner and have some family time. Same net result, but a potentially expensive way of chasing one’s tail.

  • ashley

    My son is in elementary schoil and already does not.get off the bus umail 430. Pushing the times back for all schools would be awful for him. I do agree through the high schoolers do go very early. Hopefully they come up with a rationale solution

  • SJ

    I find it amazing that Chesterfield is willing to spend money on transportation but unwilling to pay for new teachers in over crowed classrooms. Case in point , my daughters elementary school . Many of the parents have complained about the classroom sizes to the principal. She has told us Chesterfield will not let her hire any new teachers, aides only once the room is 30+. Now as to backing up school times by 40 min. This has less impact on HS and middle. Elementary on the other hand would put my daughters getting off the bus between 5 -5:15pm. This affects after school activities, dinner, homework and bedtime. Most of the parents in my neighborhood their kids after school activities start between 5-5:30. As to my HS student backing his start time 40min will not change anything. We will still have to drag him out of bed. He has a bed time of 10pm however he is rarely asleep before 12am. A later start time for him , he would look at it as a later bedtime.

  • Jerry Parks

    I think the option of rearranging the schedules is one of the best options. As a high schooler myself, I can say that this is my average day: 6:30, wake up. I don’t eat breakfast, I don’t shower, I dress and walk out the door. I get to school at about 7:15 and go to class. Leave school at 1:50, get home about 2:20. After I get home I get something to eat and go to work at 3. On days I don’t have work I spend time with friends biking or playing video games. I get off at about 7 or 8 and go home. Eat dinner, spend time with family, and then go do my homework. I’ve normally completed enough of my homework by 12 or 1 that I can go to bed and do it during the class before its due. I get roughly 4 – 5 hours of sleep and have fallen asleep behind the wheel on my way to school twice, and countless times come close to being in a accident. In general, this is a endless loop. Push school back to a later time, I either work/play less, sleep less, or do less homework, and personally it’d probably be do less homework. Dramatic changes need to be made to the school schedule so that students can balance a social life as well as get to school safely.

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