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Chesterfield School Board ponders new start times for different grades

Posted at 12:49 AM, Sep 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-23 06:39:26-04

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