After months of debate Columbia Public Schools finally decided new school start times. In a six to a one vote, the school board chose the less controversial plan.
Middle schools will start at 7:30 A.M. followed by long route elementary schools at 7:40 A.M. All other elementary schools will begin at 8:20 A.M. and finally high schools will start at 9:00 AM. The handful of elementary schools starting early are Lee, Midway Heights, New Haven, Ridgeway and Benton, Rock Bridge and Two Mile Prairie.
“We have two rural schools on that and they have a large distance to cover… The remainder of buildings on that list is district wide buildings where the students come from all over Columbia,” said Michelle Baumstark from Columbia Public Schools.
The district admits this isn’t a perfect plan but after doing research, surveying parents, and throwing out other ideas since October, this is simply the most feasible scenario they have.
“Anytime you make a change, a change is difficult,” said Baumstark.
While the decision wasn’t easy, the district leaders have always said a three tier bus system is a must. So what about when school ends? The middle schools and long route elementary schools would end at 2:35 P.M. and 2:40 P.M. The rest of elementary would get out at 3:20 P.M. and high school would break at 4:05 P.M.
“There are a lot of opportunities for flexibility there and I think people need to keep that in mind,” said Baumstark.
The district said they’re open to changes for activities outside the classroom and will likely add a zero hour before and after high school for any kids in extra curricular activities. Superintendent Chris Belcher said administrators are still working on the flexibility for students, and are looking into technology options and partial online classes. Over the next few months supervisors and students will adjust and finalize schedules of after school activities so they can beaccommodated.
The new times would be implemented next fall for the 2013/2014 school year. Now district leaders just hope everyone else will be flexible for this new schedule. “Hopefully people will be able to adjust quickly to those changes and just know we are trying to do what’s best for all kids,” said Baumstark.
The new start times will cost the district money, but its costs the district faces anyway with the new high school starting. CPS has budgeted for the changes and is expected to add about 18 buses to the new system.