CMS survey shows dissatisfaction with school bell schedule

A significant number of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parents think the system’s school bell schedule is either depriving their children of sleep or keeping them in the classroom too late in the day, according to results of a survey released Thursday.

The results, which in some cases are preliminary, were released to members of the School Time Task Force, a panel of parents, educators and community leaders tapped by Superintendent Heath Morrison to study a steady stream of complaints in recent months.

The task force eventually will make recommendations to Morrison.

“This is a decision that will be made by the superintendent, not the (school) board,” said Bill Anderson, executive director of the education support organization MeckEd and a member of the committee.

The survey was conducted by Virginia-based K12 Insight, and Anderson said the School Time Task Force still hasn’t received results of staff members’ responses. In addition, task force members Randy Forsyth and Sharon Thorsland asked the K12 Insight staff Thursday for a more specific breakdown on some of the results.

But certain themes were obvious. By a 2-1 margin, parents of students at CMS middle schools and elementary schools that finish at 4 p.m. or later think that is too late. “Clearly, the late bell schedules are not being embraced by parents,” Anderson said. And 55 percent of parents of students at high schools that start at 7:15 a.m. think that’s too early.

CMS went to a tiered school bell schedule several years ago, when the recession forced severe cuts in school spending. The system arranged for nearly all buses to run routes for at least two schools each day. The 7:15 a.m. start time for high schools has been in place for decades, but the 4 p.m. dismissals are later than before the recession.

When asked how CMS should find money for more buses, only 2 percent of parents suggested cutting instructional staff. Instead, parents suggested having students walk longer distances to bus stops. There were also some of the familiar suggestions that government organizations often hear – cut administration or “eliminate waste.”

Anderson said the task force will need more time to study the results, but he said the large response – more than 11,000 parents answered the surveys in April – was a big success.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer