School to Host Meeting on School Start Times Thursday

Midley Leger

Heavenlee Hagan, Assistant Editor

Orange County Public Schools board member Kathleen “Kat” Gordon will host a community meeting on proposed school start time changes Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. in the school’s media center.

The meeting will provide families with an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding proposed start time changes.

The school board has explored options for starting high school later in the morning in light of research that shows later start times lead to improved student performance. The board has proposed three different options and is seeking feedback on which is preferred.

Under the first option, all schools will start 40 minutes later. High schools will start classes at 8 a.m. Meanwhile, middle schools will start at 10:10 a.m., and elementary schools will start at 9:25 a.m. The second option has high school students starting at 8:45 a.m., and elementary schools would start earlier at 8 a.m. Middle schools would start at 10:10 a.m. Under the third option, all schools will start later and high school students would have only six periods per day instead of seven. 

Oak Ridge student Brian Loayza opposes changes.

 “Changing the time from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. is not good. I don’t want to get out any later than we do now,” Loayza said.

“The later it is, the less time we have after school. Some of us have things to do. Some of us have to be at work at exactly 3. It’ll make us lose jobs and take away more of our social times. Also, it’ll cause more traffic, if you think about it.”

Junior Mirlandecha Louis said labor laws restrict when teens can work. By pushing dismissal times later for high school students, they could lose work hours, she said.

“I think it’s okay to move it to 8,” said student Ryan Pagan. “It gives more time to sleep and get ready in the morning.” Pagan said he is fine with changes as long as high school classes end by 3 p.m. 

Other Central Florida school districts, citing research that shows later start times improves student performance, adjusted start times prior to the start of this school year. Volusia County moved its start time for high school from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

One study on school start times looked primarily at student performance in math class. Later start times increased some students’ math scores by 8 percent, but the improvement was much smaller for elementary school students.

Biology department coach Tiffany Roebuck prefers for start times to stay as they are.

“I kind of like having the earlier start time that we have now. When I was in high school, I did sports,” Roebuck said. “Any of us who do after-school activities, like sports or band or things like that, won’t have late evenings if we keep the time where it is at.” 

However, Kenneth Gerry, an English teacher and wrestling coach, disagreed. 

“They absolutely need to change it. It is way too early right now. Students are not getting enough sleep and sleep is extremely important to good health,” Gerry said. “All the options are better than what the times are now.” 

Thursday’s meeting is one in a series being held across the district. The school board has said any changes would not be implemented until the 2020-2021 school year. 

In 2008, the board voted to flip start times for middle school and high school, but the board switched start times back after a host of complaints. Changing high school starts came up for discussion again in 2015, but the board did not propose any changes.