DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Dorchester District 2 school board passed a new bell schedule Monday night for the 2015 to 2016 school year.
The new bell times are as follows:
High School - 8:55 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.
Middle School - 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
Elementary School - 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
School officials say the changes would address concerns with buses, mainly in the high schools.
The district released the following statement:
"At the December 8th board meeting, the Dorchester School District Two Board of Trustees voted unanimously to change the bell schedule for all district schools beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. Hours for elementary schools will be 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; middle schools from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.; and high schools from 8:55 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. Rollings Middle School of the Arts and Givhans Alternative Program will be on a schedule of 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. Superintendent Joe Pye stated, "After considering an overwhelming body of research and feedback from seven community forums, from teacher leaders and student leaders, an extensive community survey, I am requesting that you approve the proposed bell schedule for the next school year."
"Exploration of changing the start and dismissal times for district schools began last spring at an administrators' meeting.All twenty-two principals and district staff members agreed that there needed to be an adjustment to the bell schedule that has been in place for more than sixteen years. The primary reason for the time changes is to improve the overall educational programs and academic achievement of students in kindergarten through twelfth grades. There is a concern about the current early start time for older students. Research and national studies show that adolescents and teens learn better when they have had adequate rest and a later start to the school day. Currently, high school students that ride school buses arrive at school around 6:15 each morning which means a wait of more than an hour before classes begin. This transportation schedule is necessary to allow the buses to pick up elementary school students to make the 7:25 a.m. start time. The adjusted schedule would allow a more efficient scheduling of buses by increasing the transition time between the routes.
In May, a proposed plan was presented to the School Board for later high school start and end times, and slightly earlier elementary and middle school start and end times. The Board of Trustees requested that more time be given to inform the public why such changes were being considered and the impact it would have on the instructional day for grades K-12. In addition, this would provide more opportunities to gather feedback on the proposed changes from parents, teachers, and the community through a series of meetings. Beginning on August 27th the school district hosted a series of seven community meetings this fall to provide information and to hear suggestions and concerns. As a result of the community feedback, the district changed the original proposal for high school start and dismissal times from 9:15 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. to the approved 8:55 a.m. - 3:55 p.m.
School Board member Sam Clark thanked principals, particularly high school principals, and district staff for their hard work in researching the best schedule for all students and going to the community for feedback in this important decision. "This is a change that will have a positive impact on student performance and improving the graduation rate and it will not cost the district or taxpayer a dime," Clark said.
After the vote, Superintendent Pye told the Board, "This is a great decision for our students and it won't disappoint. We will keep the Board informed of any issues with this change next year and we will make whatever needs to be made right, right."