It might not produce any changes in the proposed bell schedules for Wake County schools this fall, but look for a discussion Feb. 21 on the impact of school start times on high school students.
School board member John Tedesco wants staff to talk about the sleep study research that indicates it's better to have later start times for older students.
Also look for a discussion on traffic concerns raised by school board member Jim Martin that later start times for high school students could be dangerous.
The majority of Wake's high schools now start at 7:25 a.m. There's been talk over the years, citing the national research that teens need more sleep, to start the day later.
Some Wake high schools were allowed to start at 8:05 a.m. But the proposal would move those schools to 7:25 a.m. this fall.
One of the stumbling blocks for making a change in the past is that staff said that the three-tier system means that having later times for high schools means having to go with earlier times for elementary schools. Parents of elementary school students have not been happy about the greater prospect of their kids waiting at the bus stop in the darkness.
But with the new proposal shifting Wake to a two-tier system, that may not be as much of a problem.
“One of the conversations we've talked about a lot over the last couple of years is the impact of learning in the classroom on some students based on age with start times at schools," Tedesco said at Tuesday's work session. "We’ve had several conversations that high school students have tended to do better with later start times and some of the earlier start times would better serve the elementary students, and we’ve had that conversation at a couple of different points.
Would there be opportunity to bring some more discussion to the table on the 21st about that? While you’re looking at this now, if you’re going to make such a monster so to speak overhaul of the bell schedule, is there opportunity now for us to look at starting some of our high schools a little later in a way that might produce academic benefits for our kids?"
Don Haydon, chief facilities and operations officer, said they can discuss both the academic and cost impacts of later start times for high school students. He also asked if the board wanted staff to discuss other issues at the next meeting.
“If we’re going to talk about the high school start times, we need a real traffic safety analysis," Martin responded. "I have a young driver in my household, and it’s a whole lot safer to drive at 6:30 in the morning than it is 7:30 in the morning.”
“Yes indeed," chimed in school board member Susan Evans.
“What about 9 o’clock or 9:30?” asked school board member Christine Kushner.
“Nine o’clock makes it even worse if you’ve been on the roads," Martin answered.
Martin said that at 6:30 a.m. “the roads are empty.”
“I can almost guarantee you’ll probably have more accidents if we shift high school start times later," Martin added.
Tedesco, who lives in Garner, responded that in his part of the county it's jammed on I-40 at 6:30 a.m. with the "Johnston Jam." He said the roads are empty by 8 a.m. He said traffic in the morning depends on the part of the county you live in.
Martin responded that's why you need a traffic analysis.