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Parkway Board Approves Changes to School Start and End Times

Middle schools will start about an hour later, and elementary school days will be 20 minutes longer next school year.

Parkway middle school students could get another hour of sleep next year.

The Parkway School Board approved changes to school start and end times and lengthened elementary school days Wednesday night. Middle school start times will be pushed back about an hour, to 8:15 a.m. Elementary school days will be about 20 minutes longer, bringing the length of the school day for all Parkway students to 6 hours and 55 minutes.

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The proposal came from a task force of Project Parkway, a multi-year districtwide strategic planning effort that combines a variety of stakeholders. The propsal, in, had been in the works for about two years, Desi Kirchofer, assistant superintendent for secondary schools, told the board Wednesday night.

 hinged on research that indicated middle school students needed more sleep and that starting school after 8 a.m. had a positive impact on their performance. Studies cited by the task force indicated that students who slept more were less likely to be depressed, fatigued and obese.

Most of the parents who spoke out against the change disagreed not with pushing middle school start times back, but with the fact that under the new plan most Parkway Elementary schools will release students at 3:50 p.m.

Tami Morgan, an active Parkway parent volunteer, told the board she thought such a late elementary release time was a safety concern because kids will be walking home after dark in the winter. Morgan has a student at  in Ballwin and two students at Parkway West Middle School in Chesterfield.

“This new proposal may possibly help middle school kids, but not all Parkway students,” she told the board, adding that the district’s mission statement specifically states that their goal is to help all students, not just some.

Morgan said in an interview she encouraged most of the parents she knew to send a letter to the board of education or to show up at the meeting Wednesday. She came with a group of about 15 parents who dressed in red to silently ask the board to stop the proposal.

Another parent, Rebecca Krohn, had safety concerns of a different kind. She has two children at  in Ballwin, which is located down the street from . Already, she said, elementary students are in danger as they walk home just eight minutes after high school students—a legion of new drivers—are dismissed from classes.

Krohn said she thought those concerns would actually be alleviated by the change. The Hanna Woods school day was originally planned to end at 3:50 p.m., a full hour after South High.

But, the proposal was changed on Tuesday in an effort to make the busing schedule more efficient, district officials said. Hanna Woods and South High will now be in session at the same times, 7:45 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. 

“Now we’re dealing with a dangerous situation in the morning, as well as in the afternoon,” she told the board, adding that if she knew this would be the case, she would have voiced concerns earlier.

“They drive at 30-plus miles per hour, they don’t adhere to stop signs and they don’t look for pedestrians,” Krohn said of the high school drivers. “It’s a huge safety concern.”

A handful of parents also spoke in support of the change. Charlie Potts has a daughter at  and a son at , both in Chesterfield. Potts told the board that he supports middle school starting later in the day as well as adding time to the elementary school day.

Potts serves on a Project Parkway task force and said for most of the ideas the group has offered, such as teaching foreign language in elementary schools, there’s been a standard response: “We don’t have time.”

The board's discussion mainly centered on the extra elementary school time. The 20 additional minutes adds up to about 10 extra days of instructional time, which board member Beth Feldman said was invaluable. Feldman said one of her children missed ten days of school following a tonsillectomy, and when she returned to school she had missed “an enormous amount of learning.”

“To be able to give our children that gift of an extra 10 days of school, to me that’s invaluable,” Feldman said. She added that to combat late afternoon fatigue, which some parents expressed concern about, students could do jumping jacks or take a short break.

Morgan said after the school board’s vote that though she didn’t have a problem with the extra 20 minutes, she was concerned about how than 20 minutes would be spent. She said she saw more value in adding 10 days to the school year, especially if the 20 minutes would be eaten up by students taking breaks.

The board also discussed potential savings for the district, though they said money wasn’t the driving force behind the proposal. The new bell times allow for a more efficient busing schedule, which is expected to cut transportation costs. Exact savings are unknown at this time.

The Parkway board approved the changes, 5 to 0. Members Helen Casteel and Sam Sciortino were absent.

School Start and End Times, Effective for the 2011-2012 School Year   7:45 a.m. - 2:40 p.m. 8:15 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. 8:55 a.m. - 3:50 p.m.

Central High

Green Trails Elementary

Mason Ridge Elementary

North High

Central Middle

River Bend Elementary

West High

Northwest Middle

Shenandoah Valley Elementary

South High

West Middle

Bellerive Elementary

Fern Ridge*

South Middle 

Craig Elementary

PACE/REACH

Southwest Middle

McKelvey Elementary

Pierremont Elementary

Ross Elementary

Oak Brook Elementary

Claymont Elementary

Sorrento Springs Elementary 

Henry Elementary

Hanna Woods Elementary

Highcroft Ridge Elementary

Barretts Elementary

Carman Trails Elementary

Wren Hollow Elementary

*Fern Ridge bell times will be delayed approximately 20 minutes due to additional travel time.

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