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VWSD approves new school start times

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2014

Elementary schools will start earlier next year while junior high and high school students will start slightly later.

The Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees voted 3-0 at a special called meeting Tuesday, with District 2 Trustee Alonzo Stevens and District 3 Trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. absent, to approve the new start times.

Elementary students may be dropped off at 7:25 with dismissal at 2:50 p.m.

Junior high students may be dropped off as early as 8:15 whereas high school students can head to school at 8:25. Junior high and high school dismissal will be at 3:40 and 3:50.

Class start times will vary from school to school depending on how many students eat breakfast said David Campbell, assistant superintendent for VWSD.

Breakfast typically lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, after which classes would begin. That would mean elementary classes would likely start between 7:45 and 8 a.m. whereas junior high and high school classes would start between 8:35 and 8:55 a.m.

Each school will have at least six hours and 50 minutes of instructional time per day.

Though the decision could have been made independently of the board, VWSD Superintendent Chad Shealy said he wanted to bring it before the board as part of a consensus-gaining process that began with research and surveying principals.

“We brought all the schools together and principals came with a recommendation,” he said. “We pulled in food and bus services and once we got those numbers together, we got some things clarified a bit.”

Pointing to a body of research that shows that older students learn better later in the day with more sleep whereas younger students learn better earlier in the day, Shealy said the start times should reflect that research more closely.

“There’s evidence that the biology drives the learning of a child in adolescence. When they go through puberty, their sleep patterns change. Adolescents go to bed later and are typically unable to fall asleep as quickly as younger children.”

Benefits range from increased academic performance and reduced risk of depression to a decline in the number of automobile accidents involving teens.

“The health, safety and equity benefits for high school and junior high times starting later are irrefutable,” he said.

Concerns about parents dropping off elementary children before work were quashed after Shealy pointed to a stipend in the district’s budget that pays for staff to watch children who are dropped off early.

District 4 Trustee Joe Loviza made the motion to approve the times with support from District 5 Trustee Sally Bullard and District 1 Trustee Bryan Pratt, who is also the board president.

For information about a particular school’s starting times, contact the school’s administrative staff.