The idea that the only way to return to later, healthier school start times is to reroute or add buses at exorbitant costs is a myth. Communities that have put student health and well-being first have found a variety of creative solutions, sometimes even saving money in the process. Below are just a few examples:
- Santa Rosa County (FL) school district saved millions when it changed to later school start times in 2006. High schools start between 9 and 9:25 am. Elementary schools start at 7:30 am. This is a very highly ranked Florida public school system with competitive (football district champion!) athletic teams.
- The Wilton (CT) School District maintained its three-tiered start schedule, and achieved a more appropriate starting time for teenagers by flipping the upper elementary start, at 8:15 am, with the middle school/high school start, at 7:35 am. The adolescents gained 40 minutes of time in the morning for sleep.
- Schools in Moore County, NC created a dual-route bus system in which elementary schools and high schools share buses on separate routes. School officials estimate that the changes will save about $700,000 a year.The plan shifted high school start times 45 minutes later, with school beginning at 9 a.m. and dismissing at 4 p.m.
- West Des Moines School District in IA found a way to start high schools later by reducing the number of buses needed, saving the district $700,000 annually.
- In the Mahtomedi School District (MN), high schools found a way to start 35 minutes later by shortening passing periods, another no cost solution. An added bonus: no impact on after-school activities, better attendance, and less student sleeping in class.
- Jessamine County, KY moved its high school start from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. without adding bus drivers. Middle schools now start at 8:50 a.m. and elementary schools at 8 a.m.
- Arlington, VA changed high school start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:19 a.m. without increased expenditure of resources
- Fairfax County Public Schools in VA have been provided with both low-cost and no-cost options to move their high school start times to 8:00 a.m. or later by an independent consultant.
Other "out-of-box" solutions are out there, but not limited to:
- Consolidate busing to more efficiently provide service where it is actually being used
- Providing sidewalks, safer paths and walkways to allow more students the ability to walk or bike to school during daylight hours
- Shift high school bus times to later and allow for online class periods or "virtual learning"
- Providing elective bus service, where riders pay for bus service
- Using public transportation instead of private companies
This list was put together by Start School Later, Inc. based in Annapolis, MD. Both Anne Arundel and Montgomery Counties share Start School Later Chapters with Howard County. You can check us out at: http://www.startschoollater.net/.
Sign our Howard County petition at:http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco
Yours in Service,
Mark Donovan, Dad...