By Jeff Gallatin
School officials are moving back start times for district schools next year after reviewing the controversial early start that was utilized this year.
“This is more in line with research that supports later start times for teens,” district Superintendent Mike Zalar said.
The school board unanimously approved the move at its April 16 meeting. Zalar, in his first year as superintendent, had promised he would review the early start times, which the school board had approved after much debate in the spring of 2013. Many parents had spoken against it, saying it would affect students negatively by giving them less rest. Most of the opposition came from high school and middle school families.
Melissa Meredith, one of the parents who spoke against the change last year, was pleased by the district’s move.
“Dr. Zalar showed true leadership by addressing this issue within his first year in the district,” she said. “He took the initiative to reach out to parents and staff for their feedback. Most importantly he placed value in all of the research that showed that starting later benefits the health and academics of teenagers. This was a definite victory for North Olmsted High School and Middle School students.”
With the change, the start and end times for North Olmsted High School students will go from 7:20 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. The middle school will go from 7:23 a.m. and 2:24 p.m. to 7:45 a.m. and 2:34 p.m.
Zalar said the new times were developed after seeking input from students, parents, staff, teachers and administration. He cited recent surveys done by the district in which a majority of students, parents and teachers were opposed to earlier start times.
Although he said the opposition to the earlier start times came primarily from middle and high school families, he noted that the earlier times had caused transportation problems at all levels, including primary and intermediate schools as well.
“There is more time between pickups and drop-offs, so the buses should be on time,” he said.
Start and end times for the Forest and Spruce preschools will not change. The Butternut preschool times will go from 8:35 a.m. and 1:20 p.m. to 8:50 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. The times for Birch, Butternut, Forest and Spruce primary schools will go from 8:50 a.m. and 3:35 p.m. to 9:05 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. Chestnut, Maple and Pine intermediate schools will go from 8:10 a.m. and 2:55 p.m. to 8:27 a.m. and 3:12 p.m.
Zalar said with the better transportation schedule, the district should see more than $100,000 in savings.
He said the new times also continue to provide time for students in need of additional help.
“Students at the high school will not lose any instructional time, and middle school students will have access to extra help during the school day,” he said.
The high school will shift the SOAR academic period to the morning and also have a zero period from 7:15 to 8 a.m. for Polaris vocational students in need of an extra science credit due to changes in state requirements for graduation.
School board Vice President Terry Groden, the only board member to vote against moving to earlier start times last year, was pleased.
“These new start times will benefit our students,” he said. “Studies have shown the extra sleep in itself could benefit them academically.”
School Board President John Lasko said the district had honored its commitment by reviewing the decision made last year, and then acting upon the information presented to it.
High school Principal Jeff Stanton and middle school Principal Tom Dreiling both said they were ready for the change.
“No schedule is perfect, and we’ll always look for the best ways we can benefit our students,” Dreiling said.
“A lot of work has gone into considering the best possible schedule and aiding our students,” Stanton said. “This looks at the ways of aiding them the most academically, and I’m sure we’ll continue to review this and other areas and adjust as needs require it.”