Potsdam school board to vote on proposed school start time change Nov. 12
Sunday, November 10, 2019 - 5:39 pm

BY MATT LINDSEY

North Country This Week

POTSDAM -- The Potsdam Central School Board of Education is expected to vote on a possible change to the school start time at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The district has been considering different options for start times for students for about three years.

The school board explored the feasibility of shifting start times to be better aligned with the recommendations of sleep experts.

The goal would be to have students in middle and high school start their academic days later in the morning, as they tend to go to sleep much later than younger students.

At its Oct. 8 meeting, PCS School Board President James Hubbard conducted a straw poll vote with the majority of the board opting for no change to the school start time.

The board planned to officially vote on the time change at its Oct. 22 meeting

“We had several Board members absent, so school start time was removed from the agenda,” PCS Superintendent Joann Chambers said. She said she expected a vote at the Nov. 12 meeting.

The district sent out a survey to parents, students, staff and other employees to gather information for consideration. There were a total of 839 responses, 69% from parents.

The survey showed that 58% of respondents agreed to some extent with professional and medical health organizations that middle and high school students should start their school day at 8:30 a.m. or later.

There were five options for changing the school start time, including no change.

No change was the most popular choice, with 53% of respondents ranking it as their first of second choice.

The second most popular choice was merging the bus runs with school to start between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. This choice would cost the district about $200,00 annually.

Some comments in favor of this choice included not disrupting the start time for elementary students, older students would start at the recommended time, and it could be helpful for families to have all their students attending school during the same hours.

Concerns for this option included having younger students riding the same bus as older students and the added cost, the need to renegotiate contacts and the prospect of being able to find additional qualified bus drivers when this is already somewhat of an issue.

The second most popular time change would call for all school to start 25 minutes later. The survey showed 36% of respondents ranked this as their first or second choice.

Seen as positives of this change were no additional cost, a more moderate change, and that it moves secondary students closer to the recommended start time of sleep experts.

Cons included scheduling conflicts for students who attend BOCES and not enough of a time change to make a difference.