Norfolk School Board decides not to change school start times for fall 2020

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — After some debate over the last year, the Norfolk School Board decided Wednesday to delay changing school start times this year.

Instead of changing start times this fall — so high schoolers start later and elementary students start earlier — the change will happen further down the road.

The decision reverses a previous vote made in January to make the change this fall.

The division did not say when start times will change, but said school board discussions will not continue on the matter until after June 30.

Tommy Smigiel, a Norfolk City Council member and principal at Academy for Discovery at Lakewood, announced the vote on Facebook Wednesday night.

A school division spokeswoman also confirmed the delay.

The decision to change start times this fall had been met with concern from parents and some others. Parents created several online petitions in January to show opposition to the change.

In February 2019, a consultant recommended high schools start between 8:50 a.m. and 9:00 a.m and elementary schools between 7:30 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. — nearly the opposite of the current schedules.

That same consultant returned in January and advised the board to delay the change for a multitude of reasons.

Despite the consultant’s recommendation to delay implementing later start times, the school board voted at the time to keep with the original plan — changing start times in fall 2020.

A presentation included in Wednesday night’s meeting agenda packet laid out what would be impacted by changing the times this year, including transportation, academics, before- and after-school care and athletics.

Changing start times also would create scheduling conflicts and increased capital costs with lighting athletic fields.

The school division released additional information Thursday afternoon, saying board members decided to delay the new start times after the presentation by staff outlined “inherent challenges” in the presentation.

“Several board members pointed to community concerns that had been shared with them in recent weeks as key to causing them to want to revisit the matter. These concerns included the need for increased childcare, the inability to afford the increased cost, and the negative impact on athletic schedules and extracurricular activities at the high school level,” the division wrote in a news release.

The school board will not resume discussions on the change in start times until after June 30.


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