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Board Members Balk at 7:25 a.m. Middle School Start Time, But Approve New Bell Schedule

| July 23, 2013

A later start time for middle schools would have required the addition of six bus routes, at a cost the school district hasn’t budgeted. (Joey Parsons)

A later start time for middle schools would have required the addition of six bus routes, at a cost the school district hasn’t budgeted. (Joey Parsons)

Middle school students will have to wake up even earlier than last year when school resumes on Aug. 19. For students at Indian Trails and Buddy Taylor Middle Schools, buses will be picking up in the morning the 6 o’clock hour and dropping students at school at 7:10 a.m. for a first-period bell at 7:25 a.m.

That’s 15 minutes earlier than the last school year, and a first-period start time 95 minutes earlier than some elementary schools, and 35 minutes earlier than for high school students. Middle school students will also be dismissed earlier, at 1:25 p.m.

The Flagler County School Board approved the new schedule in a 3-2 vote Tuesday evening, with Board Chairman Andy Dance and board member Colleen Conklin opposed.

“This bell schedule makes it the most efficient way possible to do it because now you have a big enough gap in the afternoon for them to drop off the students and get to FPC in time, correct?” board member Trevor Tucker said, joining Sue Dickinson and John Fisher in the majority. “So this is the most efficient way humanly possible to do this.”

andy dance flagler county school board

Andy Dance (© FlaglerLive)

Dance disagreed. He said the district should have conducted a broader analysis of alternatives, such as the cost of either adding six buses or shifting certain schedules to stagger routes and enable a later start time for students. He is not comfortable with starting middle schoolers’ day that early. “I’m not going to support this schedule, but I’d be interested in a different one,” he said.

Nor is Conklin. “That is not biologically working, as researchers have shown us,” she said. Copious research shows that adolescents function poorly early in the morning.

But two obstacles were in the way: money and a fast-approaching school year, now barely four weeks away.

“I’m sure we didn’t budget for those six bus routes, and I’m sure we don’t have the money to fund those six bus routes,” Dickinson said. Deputy Superintendent Jacob Oliva said schools were ready to print planners to distribute to parents and students, making a delay until another school board meeting in two weeks difficult.

“What’s 15 minutes? They’re going to get up early anyway,” Dickinson said.

Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast High Schools’ times are essentially unchanged. Belle Terre Elementary will begin its day 15 minutes earlier, at 8:45 a.m., and dismiss at 3:20 instead of 3:30 p.m. Old Kings Elementary will ring first period five minutes earlier, at 9 a.m., and dismiss at 3:30 p.m. All other elementary schools’ times are unchanged. Phoenix Academy will start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. Breakfast times for all schools are earlier.

The later start times for middle and high school students, earlier dismissals and shorter school days were instituted two years ago, and were designed to save the district money. Those changes remain in place this year, as the district continues to struggle through financial difficulties.

In sum, middle and high school students will be on campus six hours a day. Elementary school students will be on campus six and a half hours, with the exception of Phoenix Academy students, who’ll be on their campus slightly more than eight hours a day.

The district attempted to restore 45 minutes a day to the school day in the middle and high schools by proposing to pay for the expense by way of a higher property tax. Voters rejected the proposal in a referendum in August. One of the consequences of that vote was the end of the district’s alternative school as it was run until then. In the coming year, Everest alternative school–formerly known as Pathways, the small campus to the north of Flagler Palm Coast High School–will operate only from 2:30 to 5 p.m. and have a smaller staff.

Bell Schedule for Flagler County Schools, 2013-14

SchoolMorning Bus Arrival/BreakfastFirst Period BellDismissal
Flagler Palm Coast High School7:30 a.m.8 a.m.2 p.m.
Matanzas High School7:30 a.m.8 a.m.2 p.m.
Buddy Taylor Middle School7:10 a.m.7:25 a.m.1:25 p.m.
Indian Trails Middle School7:10 a.m.7:25 a.m.1:25 p.m.
Bunnell Elementary8:30 a.m.8:50 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Belle Terre Elementary8:30 a.m.8:50 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Old Kings Elementary8:40 a.m.9 a.m.3:30 p.m.
Phoenix Academy7:45 a.m.8 a.m.3 p.m.
Rymfire Elementary8:40 a.m.9 a.m.3:30 p.m.
Wadsworth Elementary8:25 a.m.8:45 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.
(*) Charter schools. Source: Flagler County Schools. A pdf chart of the bell schedules is available here.

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

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24 Responses for “Board Members Balk at 7:25 a.m. Middle School Start Time, But Approve New Bell Schedule”

  1. Seminole Pride says:

    I think this is perfect, because both parent and child can get up at same time and get ready for school / work. Don’t want to leave child home to get themselves ready could cause tardiness or even absents.

  2. Ella says:

    Why in the world would you make middle school students go in before high school students? Is it safer to have them out there in the DARK versus the older students? That makes NO SENSE!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Only a six hour school day??? I just can’t imagine why we continue to fall behind in education???? Middle school kids waiting for the bus in the dark and coming home at one-thirty???? What do they do with the rest of their afternoon if their parents work???? It makes more sense for high school kids to start earlier and then work part- time after school than having younger kids often unsupervised after school. What ever happened to a full school day for elementary and middle school that was eight to three-thirty, and high school that was seven to two-thirty???? SMH

  4. PC Mom says:

    Let’s take the school board member salaries and put that towards the bus routes!!!
    What about parents with kids in multiple schools?? Who is gonna watch these kids??

    The members that voted for the change clearly haven’t had school aged children in a while. They must have forgotten how crazy it can be!

  5. Helene says:

    I am thankful all my children have graduated and moved on from this school district. For the past several years the powers that be have seen fit to change the schedules every year in one way or another. The height of this ludicrousness was the 4 years my son was at MHS from ’08 to ’12 when he had a different bell (periods) time each and every year. Followed by yet another type of schedule last year.
    Then they cut learning time from the middle and high school. Insane.
    Now I see from last year to this – they changed some of the elementary school times 5 minutes here and 10-15 minutes there.

    Can anyone explain why we can’t at least have all the elementary schools start at the same time each day and end at the same time?! Why does there have to be a 5 to 15 minute difference? They can’t possibly be using the same buses with that small a time difference. Why not have all elementary schools start at 845 or 9am?

    It seems like TPTB try their hardest to make schedules as confusing as possible. Or maybe they are trying to justify their jobs by making work for themselves.

  6. Lonewolf says:

    Middle school students will also be dismissed earlier, at 1:25 p.m.

    Back when I was going to school…this was called a 1/2 day

  7. fruitcake says:

    What was wrong with the old schedule?

  8. Realty Check says:

    What makes no sense is the fact that our school board is working on this with less than 3 weeks to the start of school. This is just another feather in their caps of mismanagement, it is a disgrace how they conduct business. If the residents of Flagler do no vote out these incompetents in the upcoming election then we get what we deserve for leaving them in office. I hope none of them ever have to go to the public sector for jobs, they would never survive.

    • Magnolia says:

      @ Reality Check: You hope none ever go to the private sector????? You can’t possibly think this is acceptable for local government. This is YOUR MONEY paying for this.

      Hope all these parents go to the next School Board meeting. They need to hear from all of you.

      • Realty Check says:

        @ Magnolia, did you read my post? I can not tolerate their incompentency, I said they would not surrvive in the puplic sector if they had to get real jobs. I plan to vote them out next election

  9. Justin says:

    I want the school board to get up @ 4 am, Every school day, then sit on a bus for over an hour to go ten miles! What the hell is wrong with you people? Make the high school kids go in early and let the middle schoolers go in at a reasonable time! I still say it is time to remove all the admin from their jobs and get new people in! These admins are way over paid for doing nothing!
    I do not think they could handle this irate parent right now!

  10. CM says:

    My question is if it is all about money, where is the money coming from for the laptops that were mentioned on this morning’s new report? Every Student gets a laptop? Fees put on parents? Back to Conklin’s point, it is true that children don’t operate as well that early in the morning. 15 min is a lot when a routine is in place for dual employed parents and children with evening activities.

  11. @Seminole pride, while your point is understandable, studies have proven that later start times can have the directly opposite effect. (Source Later start times often equate with high grades, better test scores and less truancy because the adolescent brain and hormones are shown to work better later in the morning—regardless of the amount of sleep one gets.

    This is a recipe for failure by the school board and a step in the wrong direction.

    • Seminole Pride says:

      Times, have changed and kids are lazy and irresponsible. I for one grew up in rural Florida, had to deliver papers before I attended school, and many of my friends had chores to do before we went to school. So don’t give me this bull crap about what a study shows. I grew up went to college, and also got my MBA and worked 30 years in a professional position, as will as many of my childhood friends. Please stop making excuses for today’s kids.

  12. nyy says:

    It doesn’t matter what time the school board wants to start school for middle school children, 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM, 7:25 AM, they still won’t wake up until after 10:00 AM. You just can’t mess with biology!

  13. Kendall says:

    Conditioning kids to wake early is not a bad habit to implement. I have a problem with kids sleeping until late morning or early afternoon and for the most part, did not allow that in my home.

    If they need to be up at 5 every day, they need to go to sleep earlier. Its pretty simple. And parents need to keep the kids on a reasonable schedule on weekends so they can maintain their sleep schedules. I think much of this noise is due to parents that don’t want to have to wake early enough to help their kids get ready. If kids are encouraged by their parents to deal with it, they may learn to enjoy their earlier mornings and longer afternoons.

    • It’s not about “conditioning” and it isn’t really about amount of sleep. Scientific studies have shown that no matter when adolescents go to bed, their bodies don’t start “firing on all cylinders” like ours. It has to do with their developing brains and hormones, nothing to do with their parenting.

      On top of that. Kids going through puberty and early teenage years need anywhere from 8.5-9 hours of sleep. If it’s a 5am wake up call, that’s a 8pm bedtime, which is *fine* but still doesn’t fix the underlying problem above.

      All of this is for money—because the bus routes need extra time so they don’t have to pay for more. Instead of going later, they went earlier which is both foolish and flies in the face of educational research. Of course, that sounds exactly like the state of Florida education.

    • Helene says:

      Waking up at 5am is ridiculous for anybody but especially for middle school age children. Not even my 12 mo old granddaughter wakes up at 5am. More importantly, we do not need children standing on the road side in the pitch black waiting for buses! And we certainly don’t need children out of school at 125 in the afternoon! That truly is asinine!
      The board needs to do their job and make decisions on what is the best way to EDUCATE our children or they need to get out of the education business.

  14. blondee says:

    If the busing issue was the cause of this ridiculous schedule, they’d have been better off starting the middle schools at 10am and keep ’em in until 4pm.

  15. CHECK PLEASE says:

    Why would the middle school kids get out the earliest? Why not the High School Kids who have sports or work? Now a bunch of middle school students will be home hours before their parents.

  16. Questions... says:

    Will middle school and high school students ride the same bus again this year?

  17. tom jack says:

    This schedule is so ridiculous its laughable. No wonder the children of this town are so stupid.

    • Graduate says:

      Thats really rude of you to say. “No wonder the children of this town are so stupid”. It’s not the children’s fault that the district is cutting their school hours.

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