When the 2018-19 school year kicks off in the fall of 2018, all New Tampa schools will have new schedules.
District officials say the new schedules will allow school buses to run more efficiently, resulting in more bus-riding students getting to school on time each day.
It should also allow bus drivers who currently only take two “tiers” of students to be able to do three — elementary, middle, and high schoolers — resulting in a cost savings to the Hillsborough County School District of at least $2.5 million.
With the new schedule, elementary schools will start at 7:40 a.m. and finish at 1:55 p.m., which is 20 minutes earlier than the current school year and keeps the same amount of instructional time for students.
Middle schools will start at 9:25 a.m. and finish at 4:20 p.m. This means they start 25 minutes later, but end only five minutes later.
High schools will start at 8:30 a.m. and finish at 3:25 p.m. They begin nearly an hour later than the current start time and end 25 minutes later.
In our area, the most dramatic time change will happen at Turner/Bartels K-8 School, which currently starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Next year’s schedule has school starting at 7:40 a.m. and finishing at 2:35 p.m.
“It’s a drastic change,” says principal Cindy Land, “But, I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback from parents.”
She says many parents don’t like the current schedule, which was adjusted this school year to be an hour later than in 2016-17.
“Right now, kids who play sports or go to activities at the New Tampa Rec Center or other places don’t have any time after school,” Land says. “In that regard, it’s very challenging. Now, parents can drop off earlier and won’t need morning daycare, so I think it will be a good thing for our school.”
She also supports the district’s main reason for making the change.
“It will be good to have a bus schedule where the kids get picked up by their buses on time,” Land says, “so we’re not waiting on two or three buses every morning.”
Land also notes that the significantly earlier start time will make one big impact on kids’ mornings.
“My biggest concern is that at the beginning of the (2018-19) school year, kids will be at the bus stop in the dark,’’ she says. “We have a lot of kindergartners who ride the bus. Parents are going to have to rally together to make sure they’re safe, and then we have to get together as a community and be vigilant and be sure to be watching out for the little kids.”
Parents can’t say they didn’t see this coming. After negative backlash last spring to its first proposal for a revised bell schedule, the Hillsborough School District created options for parents, teachers, students and community members, who were invited to vote for new bell times.
The district was aggressive in communicating via text, phone and email that surveys were available, and reports that 57,000 people across the county responded to the survey.
The new schedule is the most popular option that was selected by survey participants, albeit adjusted slightly.
For example, the schedule that was voted on had elementary school starting at 7:30 a.m., but district officials studied the option and realized buses could still run on time if elementary school started at 7:40 a.m. instead.
This option was preferred by many people who cite the American Academy of Pediatrics in saying that high school shouldn’t start before 8:30 a.m., because insufficient sleep is a serious problem for teenagers.
Most parents seem to be taking it in stride. “It’s not a big deal,” says Ashley Cantin, a Hunter’s Green resident whose two daughters are in elementary school and will head to school a bit earlier. “It’s 20 minutes, so it’s not the end of the world.”
Cantin says she wishes the district would have added instructional time at the elementary school level.
“I do wish they would have made the day longer,” she says, “because it seems hard to fit in everything they’re mandated to do, including the 30 minutes of recess every day.”
As for lost time at middle and high schools, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document on the district’s website addresses it this way: “Students may lose a few minutes from middle and high school periods, which would be decided at the school level.”
Also, “The new schedule still exceeds state’s requirements for time spent in class and still allows our district to offer a seven-period day with more opportunities for advanced courses…and electives.” For more info, visit SDHC.k12.fl.us.