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Consequences of later start times for Wake high schools

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Would you be wiling to send Wake County elementary students to the bus stop before 7 a.m. in order to flip schedules around to start high schools later in the day?

School transportation officials presented a model last week of what things could look like if high schools were to start after 9 a.m. But the model would involve flipping around the three-tier bus system so that some elementary schools start at 7:25 a.m.

It's not an option that most school board members are considering, at least for this fall. Whether there's interest down the road remains to be seen.

Wake operates a three-tier bus system, meaning the majority of Wake's 900 buses run multiple routes in the morning and afternoon to save money. Most high schools are now on the first tier with most elementary schools on the third tier.

For years, national researchers have argued that teens need more sleep, something that's hard to get when most high schools in Wake now start at 7:25 a.m.

Current and past school boards have batted around the idea of inverting the tiers for years without much actual change. But last week, administrators gave an example of how it could work.

High schools could move to the third tier to operate from 9:15 a.m. to 4:08 p.m But because of the tier system, some elementary schools would need to move to the first tier and operate from 7:25 a.m. to 1:55 p.m.

This tier inversion would be possible if the school board came up with the $748,000 to hire 25 new bus drivers.

If Wake came up with the $748,000, the idea has been to put schools back on the 2008-09 bell schedules that were used before changes were made this school year to handle the Wednesday early dismissals. But administrators said the board could also flip the tiers with that same amount.

School board member Deborah Prickett was all for flipping the tiers to start high school later.

But school board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman said she's concerned about the impact the later times would have on afternoon jobs for teenagers.

Bob Snidemiller, Wake's senior director for transportation, said the board would also have to weigh the impact on athletic schedules if high schools ended later in the day.

Goldman said she's hoping that once Wake goes to community assignment zones that they might be able to compress school schedules into two tiers.

Click here for the handout from last week's committee of the whole meeting.

The blue sheet is the schedule that could be used for 2010-11 if the money is found to hire the 25 new bus drivers.

The pink sheets show what would have to be done to elementary school schedules to move the first tier high schools to the third tier. While not included in the handout, staff said they also developed models showing what would happen if they moved second tier high schools that now start around 8 a.m. to the third tier.

The green sheet shows how Wendell and Zebulon elementary schools were shifted to the first tier this school year to allow East Wake High to start later.

The white bell schedule sheet shows what's being recommended by staff for 2010-11. It would start most elementary schools at 9:30 a.m. this fall.

The final sheet in the handout shows how Transportation cut out the $748,000 to save money for the coming fiscal year, leading to the recommended bell schedule.


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Given the opportunity they would sleep all day long!

 Well, that's certainly true.  I've often wondered how much of the "high school kids need more sleep" argument just comes from high school kids wanting to stay up late, and the time shift would mean that they just stay up even later.

Those younger than 16 cannot work past 7 p.m.

 Apart from babysitting jobs and jobs in family businesses, what students are affected by this?  I'm not a big fan of HS kids working after school anyway, but that's really a decision between them and their parents.



Let's not limit discussion to HS

Let's not limit the discussion to HS kids working or not.  What about the noise created by families that view the school system as "free" daycare so both parents can work.  I would rather accomodate a schedule in favor of a HS kid who has to work to help support his family than to change the whole thing around to accomodate two working parents that made a lifestyle choice.

And let's not take shots at

And let's not take shots at working parents - you have no way of knowing that it is a lifestyle choice for any family as opposed to a necessity. It's OK to accommodate the high schooler working to help support the family, but not the mom and dad both working to support the family?

My apology -

My apology, it was not intended to take a shot at working parents for necessity. In these times let us not forget that HS kids are called upon to help provide financial support for the family ( I came from this environment and worked through HS). However, there are many willing to dismiss the importance. 


There are some

Grocery stores employ 15 year olds.  I'm not a big fan of 15 year-olds working either, but some kids really need that money for the family.  My guess is if a 15 year old has a job now, its likely because they need the money.

The point is it shifts the start time for these kids, but the stop time cannot shift.  Even the 16-18 yr olds lose 1 to 1 1/2 hours of time (thus pay) that they can work. And they still have to make time for that homework.


Many teenagers work.   Grocery stores, movie theatres, fast food restaurants, and more.

Jobs & Athletics & Bell Schedules

While I understand that some kids work to save for college and help out the family, I think we need to realize that the whole point of going to school is to get an education.  I will never understand the emphasis that is put on high school athletics.

Academics is far more important than athletics!

While some kids might get a sports scholarship to college, very few are going to make a living on their athletic abilities. The emphasis in school should be academics!


It irritates me when people

It irritates me when people trivialize or ignore the importance of athletics and other outside activities.  There are so many life lessons to be learned in team sports (as an example) - how to work with others towards a common purpose, how to be a graceful loser and just importantly a graceful winner, how to put the team needs above your own, and many more.  These are things kids don't learn in math class and has nothing to do with scholarships for a few.  Although I believe academics are paramount, it is the culmination of experiences that shape a child and prepare them for college and beyond.  Outside activities whether it be athletics, dance, music, drama, etc. play a huge role in social development. 

The error the previous school board made was not recognizing this and pretending that decisions regarding school could be made in a vacuum.  Any stress this caused outside of school hours was ignored. 

As long as

As long as we equally then dismiss any iimportance of getting little Susie to dance or gymnastics or soccer or getting  Little Tommy to softball or Tai Kwan Do, you can dismiss athletics in high school.

Otherwise, that argument is negated on both sides with one exception.   The more anyone advances in any endeavor either within or independent of the school system, the more hours of athletic or gym or dance practice occur in a week.   An advanced gymnast can spend upwards of 30 hours per week in the gym while a 5 yr old will typically spend an hour or two per week.


If bell schedules can't be

If bell schedules can't be changed because of a dance class (thanks Ms. Goldman), then I think they definitely can't be changed if they affect work schedules for lots of HS kids.

Have you filled out a

Have you filled out a college application lately?  They look for extracurricular activities (clubs, volunteering, sports, etc) in addition to academics.  I'm not talking about scholarships, that would be ridiculous.

I agree that academics has priority over athletics.  That is why the students should not be allowed to participate in the athletics if their grades suffer.  

But the average high school student has alot more going on in their day and alot more responsibilities than a younger child.  I'm just stating those to be considered as well - since they may be affected by this decision. 

Athletics and grades

There are already restrictions -- students are required to maintain GPA above a cutpoint to participate in WCPSS sports. 

This is a subset from the WCPSS policy form which must be signed and on file with the school regarding eligibility:

Protect Your Eligibility; Know the Rules: To represent your school in athletics, YOU:

  • Must be a properly enrolled student at the time you participate, must be enrolled no later than the 15th day of the present semester, and must be in regular attendance at that school.
  • Must not be convicted of a felony in this or any other state, or adjudicated as a delinquent for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult in this or any other state.
  • Must not have more than 13.5 total absences (85% attendance requirement) in the semester prior to athletic participation.
  • Must be present 100% of the student day on the day of an athletic contest in order to participate in the event. This includes games and practices.
  • Must meet promotion requirements at their school to be eligible for Fall semester.
  • Must have passed a minimum of five (5) courses during the previous semester in a traditional schedule or three (3) in a block schedule, or six (6) for schools on an A/B form of scheduling. The student must maintain at least a 1.5 overall GPA.
  • May not, as an individual or a team, practice or play during the school day.
  • May not play, practice, or assemble as a team with your coach on Sunday.

It's about academics

I don't mean to trivialize athletics or any other extra curricular activity.  My point is that we send our children to school for the academics.  The bell schedules should not be dependent on the sports teams.

 The student must maintain at least a 1.5 overall GPA.

That's not exactly setting the bar very high. Shouldn't we be expecting a bit more from our children ?


An overall 1.5 GPA? Good golly.


Not in my house.  He'd be

Not in my house.  He'd be hitting the books and watching from the sidelines with that kind of GPA - no matter what the schools requirements are.

3 tiered buses

Wake operates a 3 tiered bus system but not all the routes are run all the time.  For example, a bus that serves Olive Chapel, a year round school, also runs a route for Apex high and Apex middle, traditional calendars.  So in the summer, this bus is not tiered.  When traditional calendar has a break, this bus is not tiered.  Also why do the start times for 71 elementary schools have to change to for only 25 buses?  It's like a 2 shift school system with the later start times.


I only have elementary school kids, and for me, the answer is YES. It would take a little bit of adjustment -- our kids are used to rolling out of bed at 8:00 -- but, over the long haul, it would be an improvement by giving them more daylight at the end of the day.

HS athletic practices would be tougher, but I see nothing wrong with having them before school starts -- I know that the swim team at my HS had 6:00 a.m. swim practice. But, I also don't think that athletics should be driving the school schedule.


The high school athletes & bands could practice before school... so much better than afternoon practice in the heat!  

I thought the argument was more sleep?

I thought the argument was they needed more sleep (which they would not be getting)?

And, while it may be true about the heat in August and September, explain how that argument works from October through March?   In the dark.

When I wrote that

I was thinking of my experience as a band geek in Houston, where the heat is problem during all of football season.  I was excited and forgot that it gets cold here in October.    We had lights, because we practiced at night after the time change.   I imagine that most of the sports fields and parking lots at the schools also have lights, considering that kids currently practice after school in the winter... when it gets dark.

As far as extra sleep goes, there is a huge difference between getting up early for a workout or practice and getting up early and sitting in calculus.  HUGE.  The exercise would get the kids' brains going so they'd be ready for class.  There's a great book about the positive effects of exercise on brain function.  Its called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

I suppose the kids attending sedentary activities before school wouldn't benefit from an early start, but the athletes certainly would.


in the dark

They don't practice in the dark right now.  My kid's high school doesn't have enough fields with lights to accomodate marching band and the other teams that practice after school. Not to mention that I don't think the neighbors would be too happy to hear the drumline at 6:30 am which is when they'd have to start practicing to get in the amount of time they currently practice after school.

Funny how that works ... in

Funny how that works ... in places where the HS is part of the neighborhood and people bought their house knowing the school was there the band playing from early to late and the lights and sounds of Friday night football become part of the neighborhood sounds .... like hearing the train come through each day ....

When has anyone bought a

When has anyone bought a house expecting a HS band to be playing at 6:30 in the morning?

Most people would expect that in the afternoons/evenings for practice, and they'd be crazy to think there wouldn't be Friday night football sounds.  But to think they wouldn't be a little taken aback by 6:30am band practice is a reach, IMO.

We used to have marching

We used to have marching band rehearsal 45 minutes before school at Leesville HS.  There are houses close to the high school (although there weren't as many close to the school back then).

I can't remember when school started then.  I think it was 7:30 AM, so we started at 6:45-7:00.

Eric....I have an assignment

Eric....I have an assignment question I need to ask you.  It's nothing major, and probably doesn't have an answer yet, but here goes.

There's some sort of Land Use Plan that determines which areas not currently in a town/city in Wake County would be annexed by if they were ever annexed.  Are you guys going to use these plans when determining the zones?  Can you?

I was asked at a PTA meeting last night to mention it, because one of the members lives in a node that is half and half right now.  She would be annexed by one town, the other half by another town, and she's assigned to a school in the "other" town.

Since those Land Use boundaries are already established, I would think a lot of potential complaints could be eliminated/rendered useless by incorporating them into the zone plan, if possible.

She used a specific term, but I don't have the notebook I wrote it in with me right now.

Referring to a land use plan

Referring to a land use plan or other sort of municipal planning documents is a good idea.  Thanks for the idea.

I'm not sure if plans like that will be used or if anyone has thought of that, but it's a good idea and if no one has thought of it yet, I'll be glad to bring it up.

It could be that Growth & Planning is already aware of those sort of plans and incorporates them, but I'll ask.  Thanks! 

Thanks.  I'm planning to


 I'm planning to mention it to JT at our BAC meeting Monday, but when I saw your post I remembered that you were on the committee so I thought I'd mention it.  Depending on how busy the meeting is I may not get a chance to speak to JT.


Actually most athletics end up shortening up practice schedules with the onset of winter.    Practice might run until 6:30 in September but be done by 5:30 in October.   Practice fields, where available, often don't have lights.  Stadium lights are expensive so are mostly reserved for varsity games as are stadium fields (to minimize wear and tear on the turf).

Band practices are often on alternative fields that don't have lights at all.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.