Norfolk parents, officials talk pros and cons of school start times ahead of Feb. vote

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The debate over school start times continued Wednesday night in Norfolk.

Norfolk is just one of several local school districts considering pushing back the time school starts for high schoolers. 

In November, Virginia Beach sent a proposal to push back times for high schoolers to the superintendent.

School officials in Norfolk talked with parents to see if a similar change would be welcome in the Mermaid City. 10 On Your Side learned high school students wouldn’t be the only ones affected by this change.

PREVIOUS: Community asks Norfolk school board members to push back school start times

PREVIOUS: School board vote isn’t the final step in changing VB high school start times

Elementary students would actually start class earlier if high school start times are delayed. Right now high schoolers start class at 7:25 in the morning.

Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone opened the community meeting with a brief presentation on changing school start times. 

The district cited research showing that pushing back high school start times to 8:30 or later improved student health. It also increases attendance and graduation rates. Many say the change is necessary. 

“So that they can be awake the first hour that they are in school.” said Charla Smith-Worley.

Smith-Worley is a retired teacher and said she fought for later start times while working in Virginia Beach.

“Oh I saw very many groggy students and also everybody getting there late because of traffic,” she said.

However, not all parents agree on the issue.

“My concerns are after-school care mostly. High school kids can get out of school at 2:00 and take care of themselves. Our kids can’t,” said Danielle Norris, PTA President for Taylor Elementary School. “Most working parents, and at least a lot that go to our school or other schools in Norfolk, don’t have the financial ability to pay for after-school care.”

Others say changing start times could create hardships on parents.

“If school starts later, I have no way of getting her there. I have to find a way to get her there,” parent Mary Cradit said. “I work in Newport News and construction and I have to be at work before 8 a.m.”

Dr. Boone says changing start times would have have a big impact on transportation. 

The district could cut costs and students, who ride as long as two hours to and from school on the bus, could reduce that time by more than half. 

The district did acknowledge later start times presents a challenge for after-school activities and games.

Another forum will be held later this month and an online survey will be available on Thursday. Board members for Norfolk Public Schools will vote on the topic at their February meeting.

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