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School start times set for next year

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—School officials have released the school start times for the upcoming school year.

Since the board of education voted last month to return to a single-bell schedule from the staggered-start schedule used this year, the school day for students will once again change.

The instructional day will begin at 8 a.m. for elementary school students and end at 3 p.m.

For middle school students, their instructional day will begin at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m.

High school students will begin their instructional day at 7:50 a.m., and end at 2:50 p.m.

Currently, under the staggered-start schedule, the school day is 7:45 a.m.-2:50 p.m. for elementary students, 8:50 a.m.-3:55 p.m. for middle school students and 8:55 a.m.-3:50 p.m. for high school students.

Board members voted three votes to two to return to the single-bell schedule at their April 4 meeting.

Board members Bud Thorsen, Catherine Cooke and Charlie Miller voted to revert back to the single-bell schedule, while board chairwoman Shirley Babson and John Thompson voted to keep the staggered bell schedule in place.

Deanne Meadows, executive director of human resources, said returning to a single bell schedule would result in cutting 35 full-time bus driver positions.

Before voting to return to a single-bell schedule, Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Edward Pruden recommended the board approve the staggered-start schedule for the upcoming school year.

“As superintendent and proponent of staggered day, I owe you a recommendation and rationale,” Pruden told board members. Pruden said teachers and parents reported improved student behavior and performance with the implementation of staggered start schedule.

“As you know, every dollar is important during this time of economic stress and budget cuts. Staggered day has proven its worth both academically and financially,” Pruden said.

Board chairwoman Shirley Babson said she’s had a lot of time to consider the schedule.

“I do understand the concerns of the parents. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. We all have. We’ve all done a lot of investigation. I just believe it’s best to leave it like it is,” Babson said.

“I’m not sold on it,” Thorsen said, adding it’s been inconvenient for many parents. Thorsen ultimately made the motion to return to a single-bell schedule.

“This has probably been one of the hardest decisions I’d have to make,” Cooke, who did not support the staggered start decision last year, said.

“I can certainly respect the administration and the staff for the savings that have been realized and the savings that have been projected. I, as well, am kind of puzzled as how it’s going to cost more money to return to the way it was, but that’s to be seen. I didn’t realize this would cause so many problems,” Cooke said.

Cooke said the overwhelming majority of constituents comments she’s received is that parents and community members do not like staggered starts.

“I think we’re here to serve the community and serve the parents, and I just think we’d be serving them better to return to the original school time,” Cooke said.

Board member John Thompson said the cost savings of the staggered-start schedule have been demonstrated.

“I remain convinced that it’s the best overall thing to do to maintain staggered starts for the same reason I voted for it last year,” Thompson said.

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com.