Earlier this year, the Chesterfield County School Board unanimously approved changes to school operating times, beginning with the 2018-19 school year.
The new schedule will be:
•7:35 a.m.-2:05 p.m.: Middle schools (with the exception of Tomahawk Creek because of extremely long bus rides)
•7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m.: Bensley, Bon Air, Crenshaw, Clover Hill, Jacobs Road and Wells elementary schools
•8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.: All high schools, Tomahawk Creek Middle, and Alberta Smith, Chalkley, Grange Hall, Matoaca and Salem Church elementary schools.
•9:25 a.m.-3:55 p.m.: All remaining elementary schools
“This is not a perfect proposal; neither is the current schedule. But it is a move in the right direction,” board member Javaid Siddiqi said. “Our target all along has been to move high school starting times. This is based on research that shows a scientifically proven sleep pattern that does not align with our current schedules.”
“It is an imperfect compromise,” board chair John Erbach added. “When we went out to the public, we heard many people saying they want us to reduce costs. I want to commend our superintendent and his team for reducing the costs tremendously.”
The new schedule aligns high school starting times with research-based recommendations that say high schools should start at 8:30 a.m. or later due to puberty-related changes to teens’ circadian rhythms. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Centers for Disease Control each suggest high school starting times should be later than the current 7:25 a.m. schedule in Chesterfield County.
The new schedule also aligns nearly all middle school schedules – four currently are on the first tier and seven others are on the second tier – while keeping a majority of elementary schools (27 out of 38) in the last school tier. The latter was a request often made by parents who were concerned about elementary school children arriving home earlier than older siblings who could watch them after school. Many elementary school starting times will change by just 15 minutes.
Although the approved schedule still has some adolescents starting earlier than the optimal time, the recommendation was considered the least disruptive option presented among all potential changes. Switching the middle and high school schedules also addressed research related to a higher rate of car accidents for high school-age students in Chesterfield County.
Board members indicated a desire for school division staff members to continue to tweak operating times, when possible, based on future test runs of bus routes. Board members also expressed an interest in looking at moving to a two-tier system in future years.
In addition, the new Beulah Elementary will open this fall and the new Enon Elementary will open in the spring. Bellwood Elementary began a year-round schedule this summer.