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Schools to consider new schedule

Suffolk Public Schools is considering a new school schedule to start next school year.

The current four-tier system has caused too many problems with late buses, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Dr. Suzanne Rice said during Thursday’s School Board meeting, where the proposal was announced.

“This has been a consistent concern with most of our parents,” Rice said.

The system moved to the four-tier system several years ago as a cost-saving measure, but it hasn’t worked as designed. The middle schools, high schools, and each half of the elementary schools are on four different schedules for start times and bus runs.

Rice said the current tiers do not allow enough time between the second and third tiers — the high schools and the first tier of elementary schools.

The new tiers would combine all of the elementary schools to create only three tiers.

Middle school students would arrive to school first, with buses scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. and school starting at 7:25. They would get out of school at 2 p.m., and buses would leave at 2:15.

Elementary school students would arrive on the bus at 8, start school at 8:35 and get out at 3. Buses would leave at 3:15.

Lastly, high school students would arrive on the bus at 9, start school at 9:25, get out at 4 and leave on the bus at 4:10.

Rice said the new proposal would allow for more on-time arrivals, allow elementary students to get home earlier in the afternoon and allow high-schoolers to start school later, which has been shown to increase attendance and academic performance and decrease discipline issues and student-involved car accidents.

“Research really supports the benefits of that,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. LaToya Harrison.

The schedule also adds 10 minutes to the elementary school day, which should allow for increased instructional time and planning time, six banked days for inclement weather and more half-days for teacher planning, Rice said.

Some School Board members were concerned about the schedule due to child care concerns.

“For some parents, it’s a matter of child care,” said Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, pointing out that elementary students would be getting home before high school students, who may be counted on to watch younger siblings.

However, Rice and Harrison noted that all elementary schools have an after-school care program either through Suffolk Parks and Recreation or the YMCA.

Additional information and a parent input form are available on the school division’s website at www.spsk12.net. A public input session also is planned for the Jan. 11 School Board meeting.