With a month of summer left before school is back in session, the Beaufort County Board of Education took no formal action at its Tuesday night board meeting on the issue of school start times.
Unless the board takes action before the first day of school on Aug. 17, school start times will stay the same as last year, with secondary schools starting at 8:45 a.m. and elementary schools at 7:45 a.m.
Some board members remain hopeful district officials will find a way to move elementary schools’ start times a little later.
But Superintendent Jeff Moss said last month, “Fifteen minutes is not really going to do a whole lot” and recommended start times stay as they are.
Even if a solution comes after school starts, the board could explore slightly altering start times in January, board member Evva Anderson has said. She serves as chairwoman of the student services committee, which oversees the issue of school start times.
Start times were “flipped” in previous years, with most elementary schools starting around 8:30 a.m. and secondary schools starting around 7:45 a.m., but that changed districtwide last school year in a move that’s been largely embraced by middle and high school students, their families and secondary school teachers.
However, many parents of elementary school students are unhappy with the change, which requires bus-riders to be waiting as early as 6 a.m.
At the Tuesday night meeting, board member JoAnn Orischak, who did not attend the student services committee meeting last month, pressed Anderson on whether any recommendations came from the meeting.
“The committee has requested we continue to work on and get 15 minutes for the younger children,” Anderson said.
Recently elected board chairman Earl Campbell said he was asked at three community meetings about the possibility of changing start times for a single cluster of schools.
“The challenge is how you segment one cluster from the others,” Moss said in response. “It would be extremely difficult.”
The logistical symphony of bus routing remains one of the largest issues. About an hour of “turnaround” time is necessary for drivers to pick up and drop off elementary school students before running another route for secondary school students.
Even if the district had more buses, there aren’t enough drivers, Anderson pointed out.
Three members of the public spoke with frustration about the issue, which they’ve said has divided the community.
They also called for data showing how much of an impact the change has made, something district officials did not present to board members at the June meeting, despite several board members mentioning the lack of data at the May committee meeting.
“I completely understand the current schedule does not fit every parent,” Moss said after Tuesday night’s meeting. “We will continue to search for avenues to recoup some time. I’m not really confident we can do that with transportation.”