The Goose Creek CISD board has voted to start traditional high school days at least one hour later, as part of a change to its policy on start times in the district.
After listening to both supporters and opposition over changing the school start times, the board voted Monday to push traditional high school start times from 7:30 a.m. to no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The board also voted to set 7:30 a.m. as the earliest start time for elementary and junior schools, which already start later. Schools such as the IMPACT Early College High School are not affected.
Trustee Jessica Woods, who made the motion Monday evening, said the change should take effect for the 2018-2019 school year and beyond, and that a plan should be provided by the first board meeting in May 2018 for consideration.
Beth Dombrowa, Goose Creek CISD spokeswoman, said the board’s job is not complete yet: There still needs to be a determination on what times schools will let out.
“It will depend if we go to a 7-and-a- quarter days, or add on a couple of days at the end of the year, or if we get rid of a couple of professional development days,” Dombrowa said.
Dombrowa said the district has some flexibility since they go by minutes thanks to
House Bill 2610, passed in 2015 and requires students to be in school for a total of 75,600 minutes instead of 180 days.
The discussion on start times dates back when Dr. Salvador Cavazos was superintendent, Dombrowa said.
Only trustee Richard Clem voted against the motion. Trustee Al Richard was absent.
Clem said he received contradicting research, with some saying that start times should begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and others saying that students should simply put down electronic devices and get more sleep.
“I’d like to see the board potentially give the administration direction to start at a certain time, and not have it start past that,” Woods said. “Then, sit back and let administration go and meet with principals, staff, PTOs and parents and then come back to put something together.”
Some in attendance at Monday’s meeting criticized the plan. Dr. Brian Walenta, a Robert E. Lee High School history teacher, said the idea had been talked about for at least two years, with no more support than when it was first floated.
“The people have heard the cost of this to be anywhere from $5 to $8 million for new buses, routes, additional bus drivers, increased annual costs and added stress to parents, students and faculty alike,” Walenta said. “You heard from teachers and parents how they would look elsewhere where their students would go or teach. You have heard survey reports that students do not want this idea and at REL alone 68 percent said they would not participate in extra curricular activities. You have heard from (Goose Creek Memorial) where 70 percent of the teachers said they would look at other districts.”
Others were supportive of the idea. Yen Rabe, Houston-area chapter leader of StartSchoolLater, said that having students start later is healthier, and that lack of sleep causes a multitude of problems, including car accidents, sports injuries, substance abuse, and even school-based violence.
Rabe’s research, which she said came from places such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, showed that when a middle or a high school switches to a later time, students health and grades improve.
“The benefits to cost is nine to one according to a Brookings Institute study,” she said. “A later start time does not guarantee that all teens will get adequate sleep, but not changing it will guarantee they will not get proper sleep.”