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Middle School Day Will End at 1:40pm as District’s New Bell Schedules Toll Backlash

| May 3, 2011

There's only so many of them to go around. (© FlaglerLive)

When the Flagler County School Board changed class start times two years ago, shifting the first class in elementary school, to 9:30 a.m. and middle and high schools to 8 a.m., an outcry followed. Parents were upset that the changes were finalized late, over the summer, giving parents little time to prepare—or to have a say.

School schedules are changing again, and the school board is preparing for another outcry. This time the board made the changes in early May, presumably giving parents more time to prepare. But it approved those changes today, at a morning meeting—at Bunnell Elementary School—again giving parents little room to be involved in the decision. That led to disagreements among board members.

First, the new times:

High school students at both Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High School will start their first class at 8 a.m., instead of 7:30. They’ll be dismissed at 2 p.m., instead of 2:15. They’re losing 45 minutes in their day at school: their classes will be shorter—or longer, depending on the block scheduling applied—though the number of classes they’ll take will remain the same.

Middle school students at Indian Trails and Buddy Taylor will start at 7:40 a.m. instead of 7:25. The students will be dismissed at 1:40 p.m. instead of 2:15, or almost half an hour earlier. Parents will likely not be pleased. Nor were some board members, who worry about middle school students released earlier, with little or nothing to do, or without adult supervision at home.

Times for elementary school students will either change not at all or negligibly: Instead of starting at 9 a.m. in all five elementary schools, and ending at 3:30 p.m., the day will start between 8:50 a.m. and 9:05 a.m., depending on the school, and dismiss between 3:20 and 3:35 p.m. See the chart below for precise times school by school.

Phoenix Academy will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:55 p.m., and Pathways will start at 7:50 a.m. and end at 1:50 p.m.

The school board approved the changes on a 3-2 vote, with Sue Dickinson, Andy Dance and Trevor Tucker approving, and Colleen Conklin and John Fischer in dissent.

Bell Schedule for Flagler County Schools, 2012-13

SchoolMorning Bus Arrival/BreakfastFirst Period BellDismissal
Flagler Palm Coast High School7:40 a.m.8 a.m.2 p.m.
Matanzas High School7:40 a.m.8 a.m.2 p.m.
Buddy Taylor Middle School7:20 a.m.7:34 a.m.1:40 p.m.
Indian Trails Middle School7:20 a.m.7:40 a.m.1:40 p.m.
Bunnell Elementary8:30 a.m.8:50 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Belle Terre Elementary8:40 a.m.9 a.m.3:15 p.m.
Old Kings Elementary8:45 a.m.9:05 a.m.3:35 p.m.
Phoenix Academy7:45 a.m.8 a.m.3 p.m.
Rymfire Elementary8:40 a.m.9 a.m.3:15 p.m.
Wadsworth Elementary8:45 a.m.9:05 a.m.3:15 p.m.
Imagine School*8 to 8:15 a.m.8:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Palm Harbor Academy*8 to 8:15 a.m.8:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Heritage Academy*Closed.Closed.Closed.
(*) Charter schools
Note: a stand-alone chart of the bell schedule is available here.

“I dissented because I didn’t think it was appropriate to have a bell schedule change on a morning agenda. I would have rather have it on an evening agenda. I’m not comfortable with middle school kids being dismissed at 1:40. And I understanding we needed to do it because of budget cuts, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.” The third reason Conklin opposed it is the reduction in the number of electives that will be available to middle and high school students as a consequence. “I don’t know if there are other choices. I have to have faith in staff that all those avenues have been exhausted,” Conklin continued, but she would have liked more discussion on possibilities.

Sue Dickinson, who chairs the school board, said next year no board meetings will be held in the morning anymore, even in May, when board members would schedule them in the morning in order to be able to attend numerous evening functions such as the Education Foundation’s scholar banquet that was taking place this evening.

Dance agreed that the handling of the new schedule could have been better. He said in future he’d prefer to require two public hearings, similar to the two hearings scheduled for policy changes or for the adoption of the budget, for such things as changes in the bell schedule, “because,” he said, “it ripples through the home life of all the families. It affects them in different way that we can’t always foresee, so we have to give the parents an opportunity to voice their complaints.”

But Dance was supportive of the change. He recalled the outcry two years ago when the elementary school day started later. That made elementary schools’ schedules off limits, which pushed changes onto the middle and high schools. “If people don’t like that, what has to happen this coming year is a more public discussion about like a St. Johns County schedule, where elementary is earlier in the day, and middle and high school go later, and they get out later. But that’s not been something that’s gone over. Bill and I had the discussion a couple of years ago,” Dance said, referring to former Superintendent Bill Delbrugge, “and he said, in his discussions, it never went over favorably. It was something that this county for some reason wasn’t ready to do.”

Research has shown that for teen-agers, later start times are more biologically in tune with their bodies as well as more effective intellectually, and safer: a Kentucky school district’s switch to an 8:30 start time for high school students led to a drop in teen car crashes even though crashes rose overall in the state.

The driving force behind the change is budgetary: the school district is compelled to cut $3.5 million from next year’s budget. Most of that will come from reductions in faculty in middle and high schools, and the switching of teachers’ planning periods to the beginning and end of the day, rather than during the course of the day. The switch enables more scheduling flexibility for the administration, but creates other issues for students and faculty. Teachers don’t like the change, but feel they had no choice in the matter. The county’s teacher union reluctantly agreed to the change, when it became apparent in negotiations last month that the change was going to take place regardless.

“It’s allowing us to reduce the money we spend on instructional staff anywhere from 10 to 14 percent,” Superintendent Janet Valentine said. Valentine is aware of the issues arising from the earlier, final bell for middle school student. The administration is meeting next week to discuss expansions of after-school programs such as sports, including football and soccer, to contend with students’ longer afternoons.

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19 Responses for “Middle School Day Will End at 1:40pm as District’s New Bell Schedules Toll Backlash”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Just what we need a bunch of middle school kids home hours before their parents.

  2. Lucine says:

    If you voted in Rick Scott and now feel the urge to complain, shut up. This is what you voted for, Florida! Now reap what you sow! Welcome to the tea-bag society!

  3. Ginger says:

    “The administration is meeting next week to discuss expansions of after-school programs such as sports, including football and soccer, to contend with students’ longer afternoons.” What? We haven’t had sports in middle schools for the past few years, supposedly because of costs. And now we are losing instructional hours to save money…and possibly adding sports back into the mix? Who is going to foot that bill? And please, if you are going to add sports, add girls sports, too–softball, volleyball, etc.–they need the activity just as much as the boys & don’t have those opportunities nearly as readily available to them in this county.

  4. Kendall Clark-St Jacques says:

    Just what they need. NOT.

  5. Amy Hamal-Canna says:

    Acutally studies say teenagers need more sleep, but I believe they need more school time not less.

  6. Kim Mueller Kostka says:

    I agree with them getting more sleep … start later, end later though.

  7. Ernie Toth says:

    Does our work time change? No. This is our county , our KIDS, lets do what is right for US. Mr. Govenor up yours, you only do what is benefitting what is on your private agenda, after you get out of office.

  8. allaboutme says:

    What about the charter schools? Are they going to get out early too?

  9. Rain says:

    Why is there money to keep the vacant old courthouse maintained, awaiting a tenant that is no where in sight, but no money for our kids to go to school? More than $10,000.00 a month is used for this building that should have been demolished in 2007. Does anyone remember that the building needed to be vacated immediately due to imminent danger? As of the end of 2010 more than a million tax dollars has been wasted on this building. What are parents to do with their kids getting home hours before them?

  10. palmcoaster says:

    “Keep them ignorant and easier to brainwash”.
    Improve our tax revenue by equalizing the tax rate to all including corporations and the wealthy as well and properly fund education. Tax imports to create jobs that will also improve revenues for schools. Stop our wasted tax revenues in these wars. Also trim the fat from the school budgets…if we all have to tighten our belts also should highly paid administrators. Cut down frivolous spending, as well as school contracts outsourcing, that do not help our local economy and unemployment rate.
    While we have 40 million unemployed that now, do not provide the income and payroll tax that sustain our government budgets while the corporations and wealthy contribute peanuts to it, education will continuo to deteriorate. Do our elected officials read or care for our pleas?

  11. billybob says:

    You people who don’t want government cutbacks amaze me. 45 minutes trimmed is about 6-7 minutes per class depending on schedule. Big deal. Stop being cry babies and be glad the government is getting reigned in after years of out of control bloat. Unless all you people complaining ARE the government workers. Yeah that makes sense.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    I am one of those people that “do not work for the government” and also I am a small business owner and as such, not being greedy, do not care for any more tax cuts. I don’t want them as will create more unemployed and misery for our education and our middle class. Come out of your cave billybob…or maybe your penthouse

  13. SAW says:

    Last time I checked, our country was far down the list maybe 15th or so of all industrialized nations regarding the quality of our childrens education,and yet we still spend so much more money on our system than the others do.

    One thing you can be certain of, shorter hours are not what is needed here, what is needed is MORE HOURS. Maybe they need to cut into the summer months a bit more, far too much free time makes Jack a dull boy.

    Of course if this was attempted, that could start a teachers mutiny.

  14. SSDD says:

    Hey Bob,
    Not only are they cutting classes by your 6-7 minute calculations, the article is leaving out how there are taking the high schools and doing away with 7 periods and going to 4 block classes with one small class. Obviously you were smart enough to not reproduce hopefully so this doesn’t affect you. But this will limit the electives available to the kids. This means that scholarships will be harder to come by since this is mostly what they are based on. So I can see why you don’t care because it doesn’t affect you, but those of us it does, didn’t even have a voice. So once again, THANKS FCSB!!!!

  15. Rain says:

    Not only are they cutting out 45 minutes of the school day, which is one whole class period but also many, many teacher jobs will be cut! I work for a small business and am very grateful to have no school age children. I don’t know what I would do if my children were due to do be home 3-4 hours before me. I feel very sorry for parents who have to deal with this situation.

  16. walter says:

    maybe it’s time to reduce the school board members pay and perks in order to better serve our children and community!

  17. pepperman says:

    Honestly … it doesn’t surprise me that american diplomas are often smirked at or even just not acknowledged at pier-levels internationally.

  18. Palmcoastnewbie says:

    What this article doesn’t say is that the reduction in faculty means that those who have higher learning such as master’s degrees are the ones being asked to leave and the ones staying are those who have less teaching experience and less qualifications. They will be put in a stressful situation and it will be seen in the quality of education, it is still about the almighty dollar. I wonder if the school board should lose a few seats to help with the deficit?

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