Hampton school board approves change to start times beginning with 2021-22 school year

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 12:01 AM

Adjustments in the start of the school day for students will be implemented in the 2021-22 school year, with unanimous support by the Hampton Township School Board, 6-0.

The vote was held at a previously scheduled special public meeting Jan. 27 at the Hampton Middle School library. Board members President Bryant Wesley, Bob Shages and Greg Stein were absent.

The School Start Time Committee recommended the previously presented “Secondary Switch” scenario, as presented by Hampton Township Superintendent Dr. Michael Loughead that evening.

The new schedule would run as follows: Hampton Middle School 7:50 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., Hampton High School, 8:20 a.m. to 3:01 p.m., and district elementary schools, 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Currently the high school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:19 p.m.; middle school, 7:55 a.m. to 2:45 p..m.; and elementary from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

A later school start time for older students has been recommended by several organizations, including American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics. The leading organizations actually suggest an 8:30 a.m. start time for high school students, said Loughead.

For more than two years, the School Start Time Committee at Hampton has been meeting, conducting research, disseminating family and student surveys, and gathering feedback to determine if delaying a school start would be a good fit for Hampton, and if so, how would it be done.

Loughead said he feels they could have implemented the adjustment for this fall, but said extra time will be good for families to get acclimated to the change. He also received a lot of feedback from area superintendents with similar experiences who highly recommended that they take their time.

“Time will help everybody,” said Loughead.

He addressed a few challenges associated with the change to the school start day, including for students who attend A.W. Beattie Career Center on Babcock Boulevard in Allison Park. Currently, Hampton high school students attend either the afternoon or morning session, arriving first at Hampton and being bussed to and from the center.

However, Loughead said the two-way transportation would use necessary instructional time. Instead, they will be working closely with the director of Beattie on having Hampton students go to the center solely in the morning. They will then return for lunch followed by five regular academic periods.

This will also entail the students to be bussed from their homes directly to Beattie in the morning, arriving there for a 7:45 a.m. program start. Unfortunately, these high school students will not get the opportunity to be part of the later school start time, he said.

They will have credits for students attending Beattie utilizing the CTC graduation pathway to ensure they are getting all the core credits needed to graduate, said Loughead.

And they also have to consider the other area districts schedules which attend Beattie in the morning, he said.

The district also conducted full simulated bus runs with the proposed schedule on Jan. 20. They did note that there was lighter traffic that day because schools were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday but it was “relatively successful” and remain optimistic on the results.

Loughead said they’ll work with the school resource officer and the Hampton Police Department on potential traffic congestion during the arrival and dismissal times.

Jeff Kline, director of administrative services and transportation for Hampton, said there may be some bus runs that will have to start five to 10 minutes earlier to accommodate the new schedule. The earliest bus pick-up could potentially be for the middle school at 6:55 a.m. This is later than the earliest pick-up time now for the high school of 6:35 a.m.

Loughead noted that waiting another year will also help iron out the details in regard to transportation and give families time to adjust.

Any students who would arrive earlier at the middle school due to earlier transportation can use the middle school specialized activity studios, according to Loughead.

There were several Superintendent Coffee sessions held dedicated to this subject, and Loughead said some other common concerns also included extra-curricular/athletic activities, athletic practices and competitions, childcare changes, and changes in the elementary day.

The committee recommended this scenario of the time adjustment because it would have the least affect on afterschool and athletic activities, he said.

The Before and After School Enrichment programs and Kindergarten Wrap Around are planned to be continued with the 2020-21 registration, which is yet to open. He said with the time adjustment they’ll honor an 8 a.m. drop off for students at the building.

Programs depend on students enrollment at Hampton, and have gotten good response. The YMCA before and and after school program will be relocated to Central Elementary regardless of the school day switch, as this location is a better fit for the program, said Loughead.

Sean Grimm, a parent with four children in the district, did not view the start time change favorably as he feels the students could miss out on nonHampton-sanctioned extracurricular activities. And he feels that not all students will take advantage of the extra sleep.

Andrew Strobel, 18, and a senior at the high school is in favor of the change and said personally it’s challenging to fit in school work, particularly for honors and advanced placement courses, and then going to work at a job after school.

“A lot of kids are really pulled in all directions,” said Strobel. He said the later start “gives them a choice to use the extra (time) to study and get rest and allow themselves to relax for a moment,” he said.