VWSD considers new school hours

Published 10:36 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

As the 2013-14 school year winds to a close, Vicksburg Warren School District officials are eyeing a shift in school starting times.

Earlier this week, proposed hours sent via email to the district’s 15 principals were shared on social media. Those proposed start times, which were sent for consideration and discussion, would have elementary classes beginning at 8 a.m., junior high classes at 8:50 a.m. and high school classes at 9 a.m. Schools would dismiss at 2:50 p.m., 3:40 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. respectively. Elementary students could be dropped off starting at 7:25 whereas junior high and high school students could be dropped off 25 minutes before classes begin.

Superintendent Chad Shealy will make the final decision on any actual changes to the school day.

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David Campbell, assistant superintendent for the VWSD, said the proposals are based on a slew of research that includes benefits ranging from increased academic performance to reduced risk of obesity and traffic accidents.

“As we are finalizing our school times for the upcoming school year, our principals reviewed the research which revealed that the health, safety, and equity benefits to starting junior high and high school at time more in sync with the sleep needs of students are irrefutable,” he said in a statement.

In multiple studies cited from New York University, the University of Minnesota and Brown University, biologists suggested an 8:30 a.m. start time for junior high and high school students.

“Some benefits of a later start of the school day for junior high and high school include improved alertness, memory, attention, and cognitive processing skills, improved academic performance, reduced tardiness, truancy, and drop-out rates … reduced depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, reduced risk of obesity, eating disorders, and improved mood and impulse control,” Campbell said.

Elementary students, on the other hand, tend to be more highly functioning in the mornings. Campbell said the proposed changes for elementary school hours are aimed at addressing those differences.

“Because elementary students learn better earlier in the day, we are restructuring the elementary school day to benefit academic achievement,” he said.

In April, the VWSD Board of Trustees voted unanimously and without debate to return the school start date to Aug. 8, nearly two weeks earlier than the proposed Aug. 18 start date set by the Mississippi Legislature in 2012. That law was amended earlier this year to allow individual districts to decide when they would start school.