Center Grove delays decision on start time

If Center Grove parents and students were hoping to be able to start their school day later in the morning next school year, that isn’t happening.

A final decision on the matter could still be years away.

The issue isn’t as simple as deciding that schools should start earlier or later. Officials have to consider several other factors, with a main issue being transportation, Center Grove Schools Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Center Grove began discussing school start times last year, after both the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed later start times for older students, especially in middle and high school.

They recommended starting school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., citing the impact of not enough sleep on teens’ health and academic performance.

School officials formed a committee of more than 40 volunteers, including parents, school officials and teachers, who have been meeting since last summer to discuss ideas and options for changing schools’ start times. Center Grove is the only local school district looking closely at a change.

The committee also sent out surveys to parents, teachers and students, and got about 6,400 responses. What those responses showed was that parents and teachers were not in favor of a change to later start times, but students were.

And while members of the committee are taking those responses into account, they still want to move ahead with studying different options, Arkanoff said.

The key issue is transportation, committee members have found.

The group has considered at least 30 different options, ranging from flipping the start times of the elementary schools and middle and high schools, starting 30 to 60 minutes later or shortening school days for the middle and high schools.

But each of those options has obstacles, committee members said.

One of those is transportation, which is a key factor in what times schools start. In order to change start times now, Center Grove would need to significantly increase spending on transportation, by adding more buses and drivers, Arkanoff said.

That isn’t an option right now, he said.

Other factors the committee found that have to be considered is how later start times would impact students with part-time jobs or who participate in after-school activities. With a later start time, dismissal would also be later, leaving less time in the evening for those activities and homework.

“Research supports it, but there are unintended consequences,” Arkanoff said.

“Let’s keep the conversation going.”

Arkanoff said he doesn’t expect any decision to made for at least a year, if not longer.

School board members said they weren’t sure if a change was needed, especially with the feedback from parents in the surveys against the change, but supported the committee continuing to look at different options.

Cross-country coach Howard Harrell agreed, saying he could see both sides to the conversation, but didn’t think significant adjustments to school start times would benefit the community, and cited the surveys and parent responses.

“If it’s not broken, why are you trying to fix it,” Harrell asked.

Arkanoff said the committee will continue asking parents for feedback on what they want to see happen.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.