The Iowa City School Board voted unanimously this week to push up start times for district schools by almost an hour — a move that will take effect during the 2016-2017 academic year.
Elementary schools will now begin classes at 7:55 a.m. and junior high and high schools will begin at 8:50 a.m. Accordingly, the earlier grades will let out at 2:55 p.m. and secondary schools at 4:00 p.m.
This is the reversal of a schedule change made last year that currently has elementary schools starting at 8:45 a.m., and secondary schools starting at 8:00 a.m. Now, high schools will begin after elementary schools rather than before.
The School Board says it expects to save around $100,000 by changing the bus schedules around the new start times. But other issues at play in the decision-making process were how to accommodate older students who hold after-school jobs, time for extra-curricular activities and research on the healthiest academic start times for children and adolescents.
Responses from parents of children in the Iowa City Community School District acknowledged that both earlier and later start times have certain advantages.
“I am sure the start/end times for the school will always be challenging for families regardless of when they happen,” Teresa Svec, an ICCSD employee and parent, wrote in an email. “I work at a secondary school and have really enjoyed the luxury of being able to pick my elementary kids up from school with the current schedule. With the new schedule, I will have the privilege of being the parent that can take the kids to school. My husband has flexed his hours at work (very privileged to have that option) to be the morning parent. The biggest drawback for our family is that after school activities will be more challenging to coordinate. We will make it work just as we have made this current schedule work.”
But Svec acknowledged that obtaining childcare for the after school hours will pose problems for some parents. “I know that at our elementary there is a fairly substantial wait list and very few programs that can provide transportation for students to a different location. I found those few to be fairly expensive options,” she said.
Karen Nichols, also a parent in the school district, embraced the change. Her husband works in a high school and “thinks the new start times are spot on and what’s best for his students academically,” she said. “The new times will work out great for our family. My son is a third grader. Going to school at 7:55 won’t be a big deal for him, and he is excited about the 2:55 dismissal because it will give him more afternoon playtime. The elementary times are practically the same as my own elementary experience, so this seems normal to me.”