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What time will Cape's schools start?

Board deadlocks over scheduling, Milton elementaries
The Cape school board is deadlocked on school start times. BY RON MACARTHUR
May 29, 2015

A deadlocked board has reached no decision on start times for district schools or about the future of Milton's two elementary schools.

“This board is not a complete board, and it's divided,” said board President Andy Lewis during the May 14 meeting.

Lewis made those remarks following discussion about changing Milton's two K-5 elementaries into a K-2 school at H.O. Brittingham Elementary and grades 3-5 at Milton Elementary. Even though board member Spencer Brittingham supports the change, he did not second a motion for the change because of an earlier 3-3 deadlock on school start times.

“It's obvious from our discussion that it'll be a 3-3 tie,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the board had voted on what time schools should start. The choice was between starting middle and high schools first and then elementary schools, or starting elementary schools first followed by middle and high schools. Either way, no specific times were discussed.

The board split, with Lewis, Vice President Roni Posner and board member Alison Myers voting to start middle and high schools first, and board members Brittingham, Jen Burton and Sandi Minard Johnson voting to start elementaries first.

Brittingham, Burton and Johnson cited studies that show teens have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. and waking up early because of changes in their circadian cycle.

“Based on that, I think elementary is best for early start times,” Brittingham said.

For Johnson, moving Milton school times later is a problem because a few years ago the district asked parents to adjust their schedules to an early start time. She said there should be more compromise so Milton schools and their afterschool programs aren't the only ones making an adjustment.

H.O. Brittingham and Milton elementaries start at 7:25 a.m. while Shields and Rehoboth elementaries start at 8:30 a.m.; Cape High starts at 7:55 a.m., Beacon Middle at 8 a.m. and Mariner Middle at 8:10 a.m.

Johnson said she remembers high school letting out at 3:30 p.m. when she was in school, and she sees no reason to keep it early.

“I'm frustrated with athletics ruling the day,” she said.

Early start and finish times at the high school give athletes more time in the classroom on days they are excused early for away games, said Lewis during a previous discussion about start times.

Two Mariner Middle school students spoke to the board during an April meeting asking the board to consider starting middle and high schools earlier, not later.

“At the middle school and the high school, many students have after school sports and activities. With a later start, they would get home much later and still have to take showers, eat dinner and do homework,” said Hayley Talbot. “Being a student athlete, you have to be passing all your classes, and how can you do that if you don’t have time to study or do your work, not to mention getting pulled out of classes early for games?”

Mackenzie Schmidt said kids don't consider school start times when staying up late.

“You think that we will get more sleep if we start later, but you are wrong. Most kids end up going to sleep when they want no matter what time school starts,” she said.

Still, Brittingham said he believes it's better for elementary schools to begin earlier.

“We don't need to use athletics as a reason to adjust times,” he said. “Our athletes can adjust their times with what we do.”

Although board members failed to agree when school should start or whether to split the Milton schools by grade, the board unanimously agreed on providing bus service for students who walk to HOB and Milton Elementary during the winter months.

The buses would have four stops for a total of 80 days when students are walking to school in the dark, said Transportation Supervisor Lenny Richardson.

It would cost $3,600 for a bus to take HOB students to school and the board agreed on a second bus for Milton Elementary. However, Richardson said, depending on the number of students who would use it at Milton, the district may be able to fit all the students on a district van free of cost because the district owns the van.

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