CCSD Board: Bell Schedule is 'Case of a Jigsaw puzzle'

Published: Apr. 21, 2015 at 3:12 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2015 at 9:40 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District will hold the third community forum Tuesday night to discuss a potential bell schedule change for schools throughout the district.

The forum will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary. These changes would affect schools in Districts 4, 9, and 10, includes parts of West Ashley, Johns Island, and North Charleston.

Parents are expected to show their opposition to the change by wearing red, and they're asking others to do the same.

"We hope it will be eye opening," Stella Tuten, a parent of elementary school students, said. "We hope it will make people really see what effect this is going to have."

Some parents will be wearing red, and even some students sporting their pajamas taking a stand against the possible bell changes.

"The hope here is that we come up with a system that is district wide," Cindy Coats, CCSD Board of Trustees Chair, said Tuesday ahead of the public meeting. "[One] that accommodates the children as they age through all grade levels, appropriately, and can be a sustainable, long range plan."

The issue came up two years ago when some middle schools asked for an earlier start time. Under the new plan elementary schools would start between 7:00 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., middle and high school students would begin at 8:30 a.m.

"It's just the case of a jigsaw puzzle," Coats, said. "Trying to put something together that works for all of the kids so that they're not going to school so early, but as we've heard from the parents of middle school students, 4:00 p.m. is entirely too late, in their opinion, to be in school."

The board is addressing that problem now, but has some parents, specifically those of elementary school children, concerned.

"We did not like the fact that children were going to need to be waking up at 7:00 in the morning, no, 5:45 in the morning, in order to make a 6:15 a.m. bus," Tuten said.

"They need far more sleep than older children do," Lisa Dubay, a preschool teacher, said. "They need an average of 10 to 11 a night, depending on if they're five or maybe ten."

It's these issues the board of trustees is looking at. Having held two prior meetings, Coats says they want the public's input.

"Where I'm from we go to school at 8 until 2:30 and that's it," Lillian Cantrell, who lives in West Ashley, said. "So I think that's the best."

Cantrell said she's even considering home schooling her children if the start times change, because she feels it's dangerous for kids to be catching the bus when the sun isn't even up.

Coats also mentioned it's a budget issue for the district. Changing start times may require the district to readjust the budget to purchase more buses to deal with the travel times.

Tuten created a Facebook page called, "NO Bell Change for CCSD" which has over 400 likes, and has created a petition with 530 signatures to prevent the change from happening.

She said they're not trying to attack the middle schools and high schools for starting at different times. They do support fair bell times across the board.

"We agree with the studies that show that high school students should get more sleep, but no middle school [student] should be getting off a bus at 5:30 p.m," Tuten said. "We don't think we should hurt the children in our elementary schools to solve the problem."

Members with the board said a decision should be made sometime in May as it's part of a budget issue.

The goal is to get as much information as possible from the public to help make that decision.

Some of the solutions parents have said is to redesign some of those bus routes, to make it more fluid with travel times for students.

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