CMS task force presents bell schedule changes to Superintendent Heath Morrison

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools task force that has pushed for changes to the school bell schedule took its recommendations to Superintendent Heath Morrison this week.

CMS leaders made no promises and said any changes would have to be carefully considered. But Suzanne Plaza, a CMS parent who serves on the committee, said there may be some momentum behind one recommendation to delay school for the district’s oldest students.

“They are very interested in the benefits of a later start time for high schools,” Plaza said.

The bell schedule group began its work three years ago after many parents and teachers complained about changes to school start and end times spurred by the economic recession. To save money, CMS staggered the start of elementary, middle and high schools to be able to run fewer buses.

Morrison formally convened a School Time Task Force in 2013 to examine potential changes.

The group came up with three primary recommendations:

• Shorten the elementary school day, which expanded by 45 minutes in the 2011 changes.

• Eliminate the 4:15 p.m. end time, meaning schools that had it would dismiss earlier.

• Push back the start time for high schools, which typically begin at 7:15 a.m.

Morrison said Wednesday that none of the recommendations come without added cost, so they would have to be carefully considered.

The first two, Morrison said, could be tough sells because they cost more money with less instructional time.

But the idea of pushing high school start times back “has some real merit,” Morrison said. CMS leaders will evaluate the recommendations and won’t make any decisions without a lot of community input, he said.

The effect of start times on high school students has been extensively studied, and many researchers have advocated for later bell schedules for teens.

In a policy statement late last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

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