Pine-Richland to have later school start times beginning next year
As expected, the Pine-Richland School Board approved a shift in school start times beginning with the 2019-20 school year at its February meeting.
After roughly 14 months of researching different options and six months of at-length discussions on the topic and gathering community feedback, the administration recently settled on a move that would see the high school and middle school start time go from 7:20 a.m to 7:45 a.m., Eden Hall Upper Elementary go from 8:30 a.m. to 8:35 a.m. and the primary schools from 9:15 a.m. to 9:20 a.m.
The motion passed unanimously.
“We have diverse families at Pine-Richland,” district superintendent Dr. Brian Miller told the board prior to the vote. “We may not understand that always, but we have students with significant needs, we have students who push themselves significantly, we have students who struggle to find balance and sometimes that’s a pressure they put on themselves and sometimes that’s a pressure that may be felt in the family or the community in general.
“Sleep is only one part of that, and moving a school start time is only one part of that concept. There is an awful lot of other things that need to take place around health and wellness, but we believe this recommendation realizes a meaningful step for middle school and high school students. It minimizes the impact on primary students and we believe it’s an excellent step. It’s one part of a bigger picture of how to promote health and wellness and build that within our student body so that as our graduates leave Pine-Richland that is a part of who they are.”
Board member Ben Campbell thanked the administrators for going back to the drawing board several times to take feedback from parents throughout the district into consideration and ultimately find a solution that takes a multitude of interests into account.
“I think a five-minute shift (for younger students) in the grand scheme isn’t that much to ask but a 25-minute shift in the morning is a huge deal to these middle school and high school students,” he said. “Little kids taking a five-minute shift now will benefit from that shift when they get into middle school and high school.”
Campbell also said that moving forward he’d like the district to have a long-term goal of making primary school start times earlier and would like administrators to explore ways the district can provide parents with low-cost options for dropping primary students off before the school day begins.
Greg DiTulio said he initially was not in favor of the change in start times as originally presented but as administration worked through the different iterations and landed on the current plan his opinion changed.
“The vast majority will benefit, whether it’s today, whether it’s next year or in four years,” he said.
Carla Meyer said she moved into the school district in 2014 from a district with later start times and was appalled when she had to start getting her children up and ready for school at 5:30 a.m. She also applauded the move and urged administration to continue to look into what else they can do to improve start times moving forward.
“I’ve seen personally the impact on my children with lack of sleep, with their workloads and with activities they’re in,” she said. “I applaud this step. That said, I understand the concerns and difficulties facing early childhood parents, but when I read the literature and see the affect that the later start times have on adolescent learning, we cannot ignore it.”