Thursday, April 15, 2004

Start times won't change

Campbell Co. schools stay put

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ALEXANDRIA - School start times won't be changing in Campbell County - at least not next school year.

The county school board intended to vote on the issue this spring. But that timetable was derailed by questions about bus routes and the search for a new superintendent.

Before it can make a final decision, the board must meet with the district's start-time committee and investigate how new start times would affect transportation, Board Chairman Chuck Eifert said. Any decision should take into account the boundary changes required when Campbell County's new elementary school opens in fall 2005.

The School Board's first priority is hiring a new superintendent, Eifert said. Five finalists were being interviewed this week.

The question of when school should start in the morning has divided the county. The middle and high schools currently start at 7:30 a.m., but research shows that's too early for teenagers, who tend to fall asleep later and are less alert in the morning, district officials said.

Campbell's elementary schools currently open later. At public forums, many parents expressed concern that if start times were flipped, small children could be waiting for buses in the dark.

No one, interim superintendent Diana Heidelberg said,wants young children waiting for buses any earlier than 8 a.m.

Exploring the bus logistics is one reason the district needs more time. Busing all students simultaneously probably isn't feasible, because it would require about 100 buses, and the district has only 63, Eifert said.

High school Principal Anthony Strong - a finalist for superintendent - said he's not discouraged. The school's site-based decision-making council has been requesting a start-time change for at least three years.

"This certainly would be an issue the high-school council will continue to pursue, because we think it's in the best interest of our students," Strong said.

But one opponent, parent Greg Wieland of Cline Elementary School, characterized the board's delay as a "retreat" and says he expects a new superintendent to "permanently squash the idea."


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