In an April 19 press release, the Clarke County School District announced it’s considering modifying the school bell schedules for the 2023-24 school year.
According to the press release, the committee was formed due to results in data showing that the district can not provide high quality transportation to students given the current school start and end times, 8:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., which gives question to how other forms of transportation will be affected by this change.
The two proposed schedules include changes to start the school day for high school students at 7:30 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. along with the middle school proposals being 7:30 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. and elementary being 7:40 a.m. or 8:15 a.m.
Whit Davis Elementary teacher Kat Murray believes that shifting elementary schools to start later in the morning would be beneficial to her and her students.
“It’s a very early morning so if they were to shift the schedule to 8:30 for elementary, it would give me more time in the mornings. I could have that time to plan my lessons,” Murray said.
While Murray believes that it could be a positive change, Cedar Shoals science department chair Matthew Baker holds a neutral stance and says that all sides need to be heard.
“I think that we just need to hear all stakeholders, and make sure that everyone has a voice and then make the best decision for all those stakeholders,” Baker said.
Although these start and end times have been proposed, they are not set in stone and could be subject to change. The district accepted feedback and opinions through April 30, although a choice to keep the current schedule is not an explicitly listed option.
Spanish teacher Jessica Ward believes that although the change to the schedule may not impact her that much, that it could have a very negative impact on students.
“Personally, I’m fine with any changes in the start. I’m a morning person so I’m okay with it. But when it comes to high school students, I think starting earlier than 8:45 is doing them an injustice. I think 7:30, 8:00 a.m, that’s way too early for them because they have after-school activities, they have jobs, they have schoolwork. I think starting that early is not going to work for the students,” Ward said. “They can get to their jobs earlier. But other than that, no, I absolutely do not believe they will benefit from it.”
CCSD Transportation Director Shurod Swift declined a request for an interview regarding the proposed schedule changes.
“We are still in the fact finding stage of this project and do not have anything concrete to share at this time,” Swift wrote in an email response.
Jody Graichen is a parent of two students, one attending Cedar. She believes that if the schedule changes and her children have to wake up earlier, they will get even less sleep.
“I think it could start the year off negatively in that my kids would be tired from getting up earlier. Realistically, I don’t think either kid would go to bed much earlier, so getting used to such an early start could be tricky and take some getting used to,” Graichen said.
BluePrints conducted separate polls between 56 Cedar Shoals faculty members and 434 students. Both students and teachers prefer the current start time with 58.9% of teachers wanting no changes and 47% of students preferring to keep the current schedule.
Between the two new proposed options from the CCSD press release, 26.8% of teachers favor the 8:00 a.m. start time along with 14.3% in favor of the 7:30 a.m. start. Meanwhile, 27.6% of students are in favor of 7:30, and 25.3% selected the 8:00 option.
Freshman Forrester Williams believes that shifting the start time could be beneficial for students and families.
“This could be a positive change because we would get out earlier and it would allow people who need to work for their families to keep them afloat to be able to put in more hours after school. It will also give us more time before we go to bed to do our homework,” Williams said.
On the other hand, Freshman Donovan Majure thinks that the schedule change could be detrimental to students at Cedar and other schools.
“I’m usually less productive in the earlier parts of the day. I would just get less done in my earlier classes,” Majure said.
These changes also affect the people responsible for transporting students: the bus drivers themselves.
Bus driver Cynthia Maxey believes that the proposed schedule changes could be positive because her current schedule is too lenient, she says.
“It can be a challenge because there are shortages in every job area right now. It’s difficult when you cannot get enough bus drivers so we all try to work as a team to try and get the job done without complaining. It can be a challenge at times but we understand.”