York School Board Relaunches High School Start Time Conversation

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YCSD_SealEighteen months after school board members tabled a conversation on whether to push back high school start times, the York County School Division will once again explore the possibility.

The York County School Board asked the division’s staff to restart research on the topic at its work session Monday.

The four members present – Barbara Haywood (District 1) was absent – agreed the school start times issue should again be explored. A timeline for how the discussion and possible implementation will move forward has not yet been determined.

YCSD, along with Williamsburg-James City County Schools and Virginia Beach City Public Schools, has the earliest start time for high school at 7:20 a.m.

“I’m just thrilled we are discussing this issue again. I think it’s time,” said Cindy Kirschke (District 2), the school board member who prompted the start times discussion years ago and relaunched it Monday.

Kirschke, who has advocated for later start times because of studies that show teenagers perform better at school with more sleep, suggested division staff start the process from scratch in order to not only have updated information but to better involve the public.

Superintendent Victor Shandor said he wanted to do some preliminary work – starting with a review and update to the division’s 2013 research – before presenting the school board with an outline for how the conversation will unfold.

Part of the preliminary research will likely involve a trip to Fairfax County, where the high school start times were pushed to 8 a.m. this school year after decades of on-and-off consideration.

Shandor said he had already spoken with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza, who agreed to offer YCSD officials insight into how FCPS has implemented its new bell schedule and the obstacles the division faced along the way.

Vice Chairman Robert George (District 5) urged the staff to also look into a school division that made the change years ago and has had some time to have “buyer’s remorse,” arguing it would be beneficial to hear a more thorough review of the good and bad of implementing the change.

YCSD staff and the school board dedicated several work sessions in fall 2013 to the start times discussion. They planned to launch a community survey in spring 2014, but decided to delay after then-Superintendent Eric Williams announced his resignation.

The school board agreed to table the discussion until a new superintendent had been given time to transition into the role.

With Shandor nearly a year into his tenure, Kirschke asked her fellow school board members last month to relaunch consideration of a change to high school start times. In response, the issue was added to Monday’s work session agenda.

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