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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 9 months ago

Orange County Public Schools concludes start-time survey

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The Orange County School Board will discuss the results and what to do next at a work session Nov. 14.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Orange County Public Schools is one step closer to making a decision on new start times.

The district held one of its last community meetings answering questions about potential new school start times Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Olympia High School, just a day before an online survey period for Orange County families came to a close.

District 4 Orange County School Board Member Pam Gould said feedback given by OCPS families will be a key factor in the School Board’s decision. The discussion stemmed from multiple studies showing high-schoolers are more effective in school with more sleep.

“We’ll be weighing what our community feels we should do and the best interest of the student and where we can get the closest to the two,” Gould said.

Today, Orange County’s high schools start classes at 7:20 a.m., elementary and K-8 schools start at 8:45 a.m., elementary schools with an extra hour of reading start at 8:15 a.m., and middle school start at 9:30 a.m. — a schedule that is referring to as Model A.

Leaders at OCPS have come up with three new schedules.

Model B would move the start time of high schools, elementary schools, K-8 schools and middle schools later by 20 minutes.

Model C moves start times later by 40 minutes, with high schools starting at 8 a.m., elementary and K-8 schools starting at 9:25 a.m., elementary schools with an extra hour of reading starting at 8:55 a.m. and middle schools starting at 10:10 a.m.

The last option is Model D, which would have elementary schools starting the earliest. All elementary and K-8 schools would start at 8 a.m., high schools would start at 8:45 a.m. and middle schools would start at 10:15 a.m.

Bill Wen, senior director of Transportation Services for OCPS, said certain schools that are close to one another will continue to see staggered start times to avoid traffic problems. One example of this is Westpointe Elementary and MetroWest Elementary — one of the schools will start 30 minutes later than the other, Wen said.

He added the different models all are cost-neutral.

The School Board will discuss the results of the survey at a work session set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said at a community meeting in September that OCPS would need to make a decision by January or February to have any new school start time changes in place by next school year. 

Gould said the School Board may be open to the option of starting any new start times in the 2021-22 school year to give families more time to prepare.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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