This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details
The Long Beach school board voted Monday to push start times at the district’s middle schools from 8 to 9 a.m. -- a cost-cutting move officials believe will also boost student success.
The board unanimously approved the plan, spearheaded by Supt. Christopher Steinhauser. Beginning in the fall, students at all of the district's middle schools will start class at 9 a.m. and get out at 3:40 p.m.
The change will save the district about $1 million in transportation costs, Steinhauser said. The savings will be realized by making the bus schedule more efficient by staggering pick-up and drop-off times.
Under a similar proposal, which was not passed by the board, the district's high schools also would have begun the day an hour later. But the board approved creating a pilot program at McBride High School, a new school opening in the fall, which will start the day at 8:50 a.m. and let out at 3:40 p.m.
Currently, district high schools begin the day at 7:50 a.m. and get out at 2:40 p.m.
Some teachers and parents bristled at the idea of changing the start times at all the high schools. Opponents expressed concerns that delaying the start time by an hour would create problems for parents who drop off their kids on the way to work and would disrupt extracurricular activities and sports schedules. A later dismissal time could also create safety concerns, with students leaving for home later.
In a letter, the local teachers union asked that the district delay such a plan in order to gather more information about the effects it would have on individual schools. A change could force additional work on teachers by disrupting their schedules and preparation time.
Steinhauser likened the uneasiness to similar opposition when a proposal to require school uniforms came up. Instead of implementing the uniforms all at once, they began with pilot program before eventually rolling out the policy districtwide.
“The change process is always a difficult one,” he said. “Not all the schools were excited about uniforms, but now that’s a very normal thing in Long Beach.”
Under the plan approved Monday, a committee will research the pros and cons of a later start time for high school students and report to the board no later than September 2014.
Much of the research for the proposal found that an extra hour of sleep for teenagers provided positive changes academically. Steinhauser said that more than 80 school districts nationwide have made similar changes and have reported seeing students do better in class and experience fewer discipline issues.
That potential for an extra hour of sleep, if students actually take advantage of it, could help them, Steinhauser said.
“If they do so, they’ll do better in school,” he said.
For the record, 10 a.m., March 26: A previous version of this post said the Long Beach school board voted Monday to push start times at the district’s five middle schools from 8 to 9 a.m. The district has 15 middle schools.