7:45 a.m. start at Taft HS restored after concerns raised at LSC meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
The start time for classes at Taft High School this fall will be 7:45 a.m. after 200 people protested the planned 9 a.m. start during the Aug. 13 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
In early July, it was announced that Taft would be one of many schools whose start time would be delayed 60 to 75 minutes in order to save $9 million on transportation costs, allowing for fewer buses to cover more schools. The change would have meant Taft would have started classes at 9 a.m., with dismissal at 4:18 pm.
Due to strong opposition from parents and students, the school system later allowed 34 schools to return to their old bell schedule, while 40 schools kept their new time, and eight schools agreed to an alternative schedule. Under the new plan, system officials estimated a $5 million savings.
However, Taft principal Mark Grishaber decided to stay with the new 9 a.m. start despite having the option to return to the old schedule. "I see now that one person should be making that decision," Grishaber said at the council’s meeting.
At Grishaber’s request, the school system on Aug. 14 agreed to let Taft restore its bell schedule from last school year.
Grishaber said that medical research shows that students’ health and academic performance are improved when school starts no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and when students receive 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep. He said that feedback on the 9 a.m. start was evenly split among the 30 e-mails which he had received on the issue.
Grishaber said that he wanted to try the 9 a.m. for a year, in part to see if it would significantly improve the number of students arriving on time, and then re-evaluate the bell schedule for the following year. "There were 53,360 cuts in the first period (last school year)," he said.
Several parents told the LSC that the later start time would not lead to more sleep for their child because teens would use the 9 a.m. time as an excuse to stay up later. "At 7:45 a.m. I’ll have to drag him out of bed, but he’ll be just as tired at 9 a.m.," one woman said.
Concerns were raised at the meeting that the 4:18 p.m. dismissal would force students to give up their after-school job, and several parents said that their child already is up past midnight doing homework and that the later dismissal would further delay going to bed. A student said that the late dismissal would result in her missing several classes in order to arrive on time for road games.
Grishaber said that his decision to have the 9 a.m. start was made after careful consideration of what would be "in the best interest" of the students but that he would adhere to the wishes of those at the meeting.