Q: Can you give us some background on the recent decision by the school board to change the start and end times for schools next fall?
A: We haven’t looked at the start and end times for 10 years and we were running into increasing problems with double bus runs and then students being late for school. So we formed a large committee, made up of principals, transportation staff and district facilities staff, who studied this issue for a year. They looked at changing the order of school start times and splitting the county in to two zones, but felt this was the best solution. The goal was to have one hour between tiers [middle school/elementary school/high school start times] and ended up with 55 minutes. This is a big improvement, because now, the tier between middle and elementary school times is only 40 minutes.

Q: Was there any other benefit to making these changes?
A: Yes. Our current middle school schedule had 10 fewer minutes of instructional time than elementary schools, whose schedule includes our K-8 schools with middle schoolers. We were able to adjust the times so that the all middle schools, including K-8, now have the same amount of instructional time.

Q: What are the new schedules that were adopted?
A: Middle school buses will now unload at 7:10 a.m. (rather than 7:30 a.m.) and school will start at 7:30 a.m. (rather than 7:50 a.m.). Middle school will dismiss 10 minutes earlier, which will recapture the 10 minutes they were previously behind the K-8s.

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Elementary school buses will unload at 8:05 a.m. (rather than 8:10 a.m.) and school will start at 8:25 a.m. rather than 8:20 a.m. School will also dismiss five minutes earlier, at 2:45 p.m. rather than 2:50 p.m.

High schools will shift five minutes later, with buses unloading at 9:10 a.m. (rather than 9:05 a.m.) School will start at 9:15 a.m. rather than 9:20 a.m. and will dismiss at 3:45 p.m. rather than 3:50 p.m.

Q: Have you heard of concerns from parents with this new schedule?
A: Yes, we always hear about high school ending late in the day since students often have after school jobs or sports. The earlier middle school start has been a concern for some who cite the studies that teenagers need more sleep, but most teens are in high school, which has a later start time.

A concern the entire school board had was for middle school students in the southern part of the county who have to catch the bus so early. Right now, it didn’t make sense to have two schedules in the county, but we might revisit that when we build another high school.

Q: Do you have any high school site updates?
A: At our meeting in mid-March, we learned that the developer of Silverleaf would like to push the already-approved (in 2015) high school site outside the development, so that it sits adjacent to the DRI (Development of Regional Impact) on State Road 16A. At the end of the day, all the school board can do is make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners on matters like this. The school board voted 3 – 2 against the developer’s proposal to shift. I advocated for an access road, paid for by the developer, within the Silverleaf neighborhood to access the school site. The county commission will hear this matter at its meeting in May. I appreciate Commissioner Paul Waldron, who was at the school board meeting and heard our concerns.

Q: How can our readers contact you?

A: They can email me at beverly.slough@stjohns.k12.fl.us or call me at (904) 547-7510.

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