The Chesterfield County School Board continues to review options for changing school starting times. The following allows parents and staff members the opportunity to learn more about the conversation that will continue throughout 2015 and provide clarity regarding opportunities for input during this ongoing process.
BACKGROUND As part of the school division’s efforts to provide a nurturing learning environment, a Wellness Council identified strategies to develop healthier lifestyles, increase student engagement and improve student achievement. The Wellness Council recommended high schools start no earlier than 8 a.m.
That recommendation aligned with 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics research that noted children who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile crashes and a decline in academic performance. The group stated that starting times for middle and high schools should be 8:30 a.m. or later.
POSSIBILITIES The Chesterfield School Board already has considered a variety of potential options to meet the needs of children. Those recommendations, however, carry cost estimates ranging from $1.1 million to $34.2 million. Even simply flipping elementary and high school starting times would cost approximately $3-4 million to purchase 30-40 new school buses and hire an additional 30-40 drivers.
FOCUS OF MARCH 27 MEETING With operating budgets tight, the School Board has continued to look for options that are not cost prohibitive. During the its regularly scheduled quarterly work session at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 27 at the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center @ Hull, the School Board will discuss opportunities, challenges and costs associated with these two possible schedules:
High schools: 7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Middle schools: 8:50 a.m.-3:20 p.m. Elementary schools: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. or 9:35 a.m.-4:05 p.m. or 9:40 a.m.-4:10 p.m.
Elementary schools: 7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Middle schools: 8:50 a.m.-3:20 p.m. High schools: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. or 9:35 a.m.-4:05 p.m. or 9:40 a.m.-4:10 p.m.
No decisions will be made at this meeting. This is another opportunity for the School Board to receive information. The public will be asked to provide feedback on May 12 during a 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center @ Hull.
WHAT THIS ACCOMPLISHES Both proposals move closer toward the identified goals of providing high school students a later starting time and keeping elementary schools close to a 4 p.m. dismissal time The March 27 discussion will include potential costs, given that the School Board has already identified a five-year plan for reinvesting in public education.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED The March 27 meeting is a discussion meeting for the School Board to learn more about the opportunities, challenges and costs of changing school starting times. The public is invited to provide feedback on the potential schedules during a May 12 School Board meeting. This meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the Fulghum Conference Center at the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center @ Hull, located at 13900 Hull Street Road.
The School Board looks forward to receiving comments at the May 12 meeting or via email to email@example.com.
HAS ANYTHING BEEN DECIDED? No. The School Board is continuing to look at options. In addition to seeking feedback at its May 12 public engagement session, the School Board expects to continue to seek public input as potential changes are fine-tuned and considered. Additional public engagement meetings will be held in the fall.