New bell schedule proposed by Hillsborough Co. schools

- Parents and students will have to reset their alarm clocks next school year. The bell schedule is changing for elementary, middle, and high school students at Hillsborough County Public Schools.

School leaders hope the new start times will solve their bus woes. The proposed change was unveiled by Superintendent Jeff Eakins on Tuesday at the school district's headquarters in downtown Tampa.

"No longer can this superintendent put his head on the pillow at night knowing that 12,000 students are going to be late the next day," said Eakins.

According to Eakins, bus drivers typically have 27 minutes between dropping off high school students and picking up elementary students for school each morning under the current bell schedule.

Last year, it resulted in nearly 12,000 students arriving late to school.

Hillsborough County school officials spent months surveying families to construct a new bell schedule. The plan chosen was preferred by the majority of the nearly 57,000 people who responded.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, elementary school students would get to class 20 minutes earlier, at 7:40 a.m.

Studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics show that younger children have an easier time adjusting to earlier days.

The same can't be said for middle and high schoolers since internal clocks reset at puberty.

School officials said that's why the schedules for older students will be pushed back.

Middle school would start at 9:25 a.m. The biggest change would affect high schoolers, who would start an hour later, from the current 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Eakins said the bigger staggering of bell times will give parents of younger children a chance to see them off to school without worrying about their bus being late or causing them to be late for work.

He added that older students will be able to sleep in, have a more productive day and get to school safer for those who drive themselves.

"We think that the biggest adjustments will be the rhythms of traffic that we'll have to get used to as a community. We envision the traffic may be beefing up a little earlier than it has in the past, but maybe settling down a little sooner," said Eakins.

The school district plans to offer before-school care at a low cost to give parents more flexibility to use other transportation options.

The proposed bell schedule will be voted on by the Hillsborough County School Board at a meeting set for October 17.

To learn more about the proposed bell schedule, visit http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/1855/administration/resources/belltimes/ 

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