York County to Bring Later School Start Times Issue to Public

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YCSD_SealProblems for Grafton athletics, a mixed bag in child care and a possible early-block class are among the issues if there’s a change in school day start times, according to a York County School Division study on the day-to-day implications such a change would bring. Board members decided at a hearing Monday night to bring the issue to parents and students this spring.

The York County School Division is looking into starting the school day a little later for high school students in response to research that shows that teenagers function better when allowed to naturally go to sleep and wake up later than the school schedule now reflects. School Board Member Cindy Kirschke brought the issue to school officials in February and subsequent research by the operations department took place to determine what the implications for the “day-to-day” would be for schools.

Under the current schedule for the York County School Division:

  • The high school day is from 7:20 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.
  • The middle school day is from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. or from 8:05 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
  • The elementary school day is from 8:45 a.m. to 3:21 p.m. or from 9 a.m. to 3:36 p.m.

Under the first later schedule being considered by the school board, all elementary schools would start at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:26 p.m. High schools would start at about 8:30 a.m. and go until a little after 3 p.m. and middle schools would go from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Under the second option, high school students would start class at 7:50 a.m. and go until 2:35 p.m., elementary students would start their day at 8:30 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. and be in class until 3:06 p.m. or 3:21 p.m. Middle school students would go to school from 9:25 a.m. to 4:10 p.m.

Chief Operating Officer Carl James said Monday night that, after looking into after-school activities, the option would have mixed implications in child care, opportunities for students to take part in programs at the New Horizons Regional Education Center and athletics.

He said both options could free up the need for child care for elementary kids in the morning but make it more likely in the afternoon. High school students might be home and available for sibling care under the first option but would not under the second.

James also said the amount of credits that can be earned by students participating in morning New Horizons programs would not be affected but it could shortchange afternoon Career and Technical students on how many credits they’re able to earn. It’s something he suggested fixing with an optional early block class for students looking for an extra credit.

Both Board Member Mark Medford and Chairwoman Barbara Haywood wanted to know how much the extra block would cost the division, a factor that James said is still unknown but could be cost-neutral.

James’ report also showed, under the first option, middle school students might be prevented from dual participation in middle school and junior varsity sports, something about 150 students do right now. Both later schedules could also have a large impact on athletics at Grafton High and Grafton Middle. The two schools share the complex and its athletic facilities and depend on the current schedule to plan their practices.

In September, citizens showed up at a school board meeting to speak in favor of starting school later, a few saying their children were not getting enough sleep. Board members have been split on going to a later schedule because it is unknown how it would affect bus schedules and afterschool activities like high school athletics.

The Board will continue to explore the start time options by holding student focus groups and parent information nights beginning in March. Surveys of parents and staff will be conducted at a later date.

“I don’t know what this board will decide, but I’m so thankful that you’re looking into this,” Kirschke said. “This is a health issue.”