CSD Start/End Times: Multiple Surveys, One Committee, Two Options

One decision.  Bum, bum bummmmmm.

At February’s Board of Education meeting, the appointed Transportation Committee – made up of residents and CSD staff – made three overall recommendations after extensive analysis and surveying stakeholders (PDF).

  1. DHS and Renfroe should have start times between 8:15a and 8:45a, due mainly to a desire to push the DHS start-time back at least 15 minutes, “though some committee member believe there is little evidence to make any change to the current start times.”
  2. DHS and Renfroe start within 15 minutes of each other due to timing of extracurricular activities.
  3. Explore sharing buses for Renfroe and DHS.  “The cost implication of additional buses is $43,000 per bus.”

On Tuesday, Decatur Board of Ed will tackle the issue and consider two options from the Superintendent.  1.  Keep the current start/end times.  2.  Clairemont and Glennwood start 10 mins later, 4/5 start time pushed back to 7:45a, Renfroe starts 5 mins earlier, and DHS starts a half-hour later.

According to the Superintendent’s note to the Board (Action Item IXa on the agenda), Option 2 would require 6-12 graders sharing buses.

Let the decision-making begin.


50 thoughts on “CSD Start/End Times: Multiple Surveys, One Committee, Two Options”

  1. I have been wondering when this topic would come up.

    I was pleased by the effort to take a big picture look at start times with the forming of the committee although disappointed when that group only did the deep dive on RMS and DHS. Others (on DM) noted at the time that it seemed odd to leave out the other schools. We eventually get told that any decision on changing RMS and DHS affects the whole system. This seems pretty obvious so it’s unfortunate that more input is being gathered only now.

    I was also stunned frankly by the “survey” of 4/5 parents and then rising 4th graders. The choose-one style of survey leaves out a lot of information. What drives the choice and who likes which choices. Dr. Edwards says they results are inconclusive but the survey is designed in many ways to tell you nothing.

    Her board note is not reassuring. She says she has done her due diligence, but I disagree. There was due diligence on the RMS/DHS end but I really don’t feel there was effort made to understand the total implications.

    I have yet to see a good proposed list of what should drive our choices. I see the reference to academics and bus expenses but it’s not stated as our upfront set of principles on what should drive our choices system-wide. We can’t’ talk about high school and then impact the whole system. I personally cannot believe that there are truly only 2 choices. I believe there must be more and each of those choices could be considered/rated against the reasonable set of guiding principles.

    I personally voted for status quo. Dr. Edwards had stated before that one idea was to hold constant given more schools/changes next year. I think the decisions are not being made in a strategic and considered way and I fear how making changes 3 years in a row (this year, next year and following year) will impact our ability to get it right on logistics, busses etc. So no matter what you believe is the right choice for any school I would suggest we consider holding.

    In terms of making changes….
    I am so seriously in disagreement of a plan that has the 4/5 starting at 7:45 and believe it should be a guiding principle to start no school before 8am. I also think it should be a guiding principle that we make choices to minimize driving and maximize walking. I think there is no option that could be designed that could be worse when it comes to the driving and walking situation. The school that is at one corner of the city, where the children are young enough to require some escort should not start so early and should certainly not start before the K-3.

    My guess is that those who voted for Option 2 either have DHS/RMS children only or no children at K-3 or have work hours that having them dropping at K-3 early for breakfast. .. or perhaps live very close to 4/5 – Oakhurst.

    I think it’s also worth noting that in Option B (2) the 4/5 and the K-3 schools end at the same time. 2:30pm. You might have more families relying on bussing but without that, you would have children waiting 15 minutes to be collected as parents race between schools (likely in cars).

    I get that many kids are there early at the 4/5. I would like to know if some are for programs that do in fact start early. And in the end it’s likely just a small % of the total school. If 50 kids are there it’s 10% is it that many? I would hate to use that “supervision problem” as a reason to shift so early. There are other ways to solve the problem. And early might really be better, but how early and how in relation to the other schools needs to be considered.

    When Glennwood was at 7:50 (Glennwood a much more central location), I saw many many parents race down my street to drop at Glennwood and then race back with their K-3 child to get in the carpool line to drop their K-3 child at a school that was 4 blocks from there house. If you don’t have 2 parents every morning until 8am, option B, would involve walking/ rolling or driving with all children to FAVE and then back to the K-3 (impossible for some depending on location). Because of this, if required I could see the K-3 starting a little before 8am.

    K-3 7:45/7:50
    4/5 8:10
    DHS 8:25
    RMS 8:40

    I get that each family has its own situation and this might be mine. But I think that we need to take the whole system together I have seen no analysis that lays out these issues and understands how the whole system could work together.

    If we are splitting families apart into short grade spans we must consider these impacts.

    I look forward to getting more perspective from others in our community.

  2. Ok I am now just plain confused. Can we get a chart or something? My daughter is starting K on Aug 1 (a whole other issue I have w/ CSD) and I still have no idea what time she is supposed to be there.

    Also – I went to high school in KY and we were on the 7:20 – 2:30 schedule and then after school I worked 3 – 9. I was basically always exhausted. But it kept me out of trouble 😉 However I did terrible in school. I think it is that kids do too much is why they are tired and not interested. I think no matter what time school starts someone will be unhappy and late.

    1. Re August 1 date: It’s a Deep South, not CSD thing. I’ve never understood it. Supposedly it’s rooted in our agricultural history but that doesn’t make sense to me since crops are growing in August too. Why would it have been good for agricultural children to go back to unair conditioned classrooms during the hottest month of the summer when the fields still needed working? Maybe the school buildings were cooler than the farmhouses? Anyway, I gave up years ago. It’s a given here, kind of like stuffing instead of dressing.

      1. You are mistaken that it’s a Deep South thing. I grew up several hundred miles south of here and attended 12 grades of public school (’60s-’70s). The school year started at Labor Day (sometimes a day or two before, sometimes the day after, depending on how other holidays fell through the year relative to weekends), and classes were dismissed by Memorial Day. High school graduation was the weekend after Memorial Day — Baccalaureate Sermon was on Sunday night and graduation on Monday night. We got Thu-Fri off at T’giving, about 2 wks at Christmas, and most of a week sometime in late March/early April.

        BTW, no air conditioning until 10th grade. (No screens on classroom windows, either.)

        1. Wow, now I am really stumped. I’ve always been told “we’ve always done it this way” when asked for why our school calendars in this region start and end so much earlier than anywhere else in the country. So why do we do it? If it’s not a long-standing, cherished tradition, can we please get in sync with the rest of the country? It’s very difficult to coordinate with relatives, camps, and enrichment/internships in other parts of the country.

          1. The reasons at this point are twofold from my understanding. First EOCT scheduling drives the high school calendar which drives the rest of the grades. If you want to change the calendar, you have to get the state to change the EOCT sheduling.

            Second, even though millions of kids all over the country manage to muddle through the SAT and AP exams with schools starts in late August or early September, people in the South seem to believe that our kids can’t cut it on the SAT/AP unless they have an additional month of school under their belt in addition to what everyone else in the country is getting. I guess that goes to show that stereotypes about Southerners being “stupid” are believed… at least by Southerners.

            The sad thing, is that, looking at our AP and SAT scores (even at CSD) all this early start time stuff doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

            1. Yes, I recognized that this was not a CSD-specific thing but a wider phenomenon. And to be fair to all, if the State of Georgia were to change the drivers of the current schedule to sync with the rest of the civilized world, it would be an enormous one-time adjustment. Maybe they’d be better off just moving forward by a week per year. Even that would help. There are high school kids who miss a week or so of school in the fall because of special honor programs or internships they attend in other regions.

              I’ve never thought our SAT/AT scores in Decatur, even when disaggregated by socioeconomic status, are any great shakes, especially given how many of our children are supposedly gifted. But I don’t just blame the schools but also the status of entertainment and technology in our lives, the pace of life for two-working parent families, and the kids themselves. If I had it to do all over again, I’d take an Amish approach to TV/computers/iPods+/-Touch/Kindles/iPads/radio/computers/Play Station/Wii/other media. Even restricting all media to weekends hasn’t been enough, especially given that my husband cheats and sets a bad example. (Ok, I have been caught a time or two as well.) Nonetheless, I don’t see how we’re ever going to be a top school system score-wise without some major, major increase in intensity of something(s) (?instruction? ?scaffolding/supporting?, ?study skills training?, ?test prepping?) with all kids, not just failing kids. Not that scores are everything. Lucky for us, our kids rank near the top in terms of beauty, character, wit, and quality of parents! 🙂

              1. Of note, AJC headline today is about how Georgia’s state graduation rate drops 13% when a better methodology of calculating it is used. But Decatur’s hardly changes–88.7% old way, 88.4% new way. Haven’t had time to study the way rates are now calculated vs. prior creative methodology but our small and stable student population probably allowed for less creative manipulation of the numbers compared to other school districts that saw an impressive drop–e.g. from 84% to 68% in Gwinnett. Just as with CRCT exams and erasures, our students may not score as high as we like to believe they do, but at least we don’t cheat!

                A VERY hasty on-the-corner-of-a-piece of paper analysis, not checked for operator errors or correct classification of data elements, tells me that CSD’s graduation rate is ~seventh highest among ~180 school districts and ~31st among ~418 high schools that actually graduate students. To my shock, there’s a few high schools that appear to be regular 4-year schools and have graduation rates of 10% or LESS. There’s also several schools with graduation rates of >95%, even some with 100% graduation. Most of them seem to be magnet or specialty schools but a few seem to be ordinary high schools.

  3. Well, I am in the somewhat unenviable position of having kids at 4/5 Renfroe and DHS when these changes (or lack of) come on line. No matter what… we have someone showing up to school early. So I’d venture to say that my opinion is fairly objective. If I have to pick and age group to start early, it makes far more sense developmentally to have the FAVE kids doing it. I’ve seen the dramatic changes that occur to sleep cycles between elementary and high school. If we want our high schoolers to perform at the top of their game (when the stakes are highest), they are the ones who should have the latest start time.

    Another problem is that I’d guess that with families like us with two working parents (most Decatur families) it’s pretty hard to walk at roll to school with at 8:45 start time regardless of how light or dark it is outside. Maybe everyone just has really relaxed work schedules?

  4. I too will always have multiple schools. And I think vs the HS and MS kids I would absolutely like 4/5 to go earlier… but to put so close before k-3 will create traffic havoc.

    Another note:

    I felt like my kids had a ton of subs this year for “meetings’. I know many schools in other states have an early dismissal day (say an hour or so earlier on Wednesday) so that teachers can schedule more meeting/planning time etc….A thought.

  5. i get that 7:45 AM is too early for 4/5. I get that families with children at multiple levels need time to get between schools given our configuration. I get that it makes total sense for the high school and middle school to be starting later and aligned, for sports, for transportation costs, for biorhythms.

    What I don’t get is why we cannot make this happen through another Option besides the two that do not allow for the above reasonable criteria to be met. There are natural consequences, good and bad, to the grade level configuration that CSD has chosen and where they have chosen to build. Now they need to figure out how to make it work. Sorry if it’s hard or costs more than we’d like but that’s the breaks.

    I think that CSD families should demand an Option 3 if Options 1 and 2 do not work for them. And the School Board should ensure that one is offered.

  6. Hmmm… this transportation/start time issue would be so much easier if we were in a K-5 configuration wouldn’t it? We’d have very few buses at the K-5 level and only three start times to deal with. Just saying.

    K-5 8:00-2:30
    6-8 8:20-3:20
    9-12 8:35-3:35

    K-3/4-5 worked well when we were a shrinking system with segregated schools. Now, thanks to some wise decisions by our school board and superintendent, we are neither. Time for some more wise decisions to adapt to the dramatic changes that we have seen in the past decade.

  7. Why does CSD need to provide buses to all the schools? (that’s a rhetorical question – please don’t answer – I think we all know why its provided) But even with that said – Why not try a year with no buses for the high school and see how it goes, and a start/end time that fits with the sleeping patterns for this age group? The following year try no buses for RMS. But keep buses for the K-3’s and 4/5 – wouldn’t this allow some flexiblity with the start/end times and save some $$$ too?

    1. Yes. I feel sure that, if we limited bus service for the high school to students who need it for medical, disability, or safety reasons, plus combined routes with the middle school, a bunch of buses, time, money, and flexibility would be saved. (I know that, right now, there’s some parents of rising middle schoolers who are terrified of the idea of their 11 year olds being on the same bus as 17 year olds. I used to feel that way. I’d like to assure them that high schoolers are a POSITIVE influence on middle schoolers. The worst influence on middle schoolers is other middle schoolers. Sixth grade parents should be more worried about their child being in contact with seventh graders than eleventh graders!)

        1. Surprisingly long sometimes in the afternoon going home, bus loading seems to go on and on….

  8. “According to the Superintendent’s note to the Board (Action Item IXa on the agenda), Option 2 would require 6-12 graders sharing buses.”

    The above statement implies that 6-12 graders sharing buses would be something new. I know, I’m grinding away on the same ax as always… But seriously, am I alone in thinking that in a system this small — in terms of geography and student population — we absolutely ought to be consolidating ages onto the same buses whenever and wherever it makes sense logistically? Does anybody really think it’s unreasonable to expect (and require) older kids to behave themselves on the school bus to the extent that younger kids won’t be horribly corrupted?

      1. Well, there are certain things each of us has to learn, sooner or later. One is that we’re gonna get our butt kicked sometimes. Another is that we can survive a butt-kicking (and if we can’t, then life is gonna be all downhill once we’re off the school bus).

        1. It’s comments like these that remind me why SmallTownGal is one of my personal, local heroes. If the only thing I manage to teach my child is the fine art of getting back up again, I will still feel like I did my job.

          1. STG is a fave of mine too.

            Also, when I was in public school “up North,” K-6 rode together and 7-12 rode together. I DID get my butt kicked but what I found was that the older kids helped to keep that from happening so much. It was the younger ones doing the bullying/butt kicking and the older ones provided some level of protection, or at least stopped the butt kicking before it advanced very far.

            I would like to shelter my son from any and every possible harm, big or small, that could come his way but that’s not realistic and it would do him no favors for the future. He DOES need to learn to get back up. I think I learned a lot about life and dealing with all kinds of people on those bus rides. I was away from most of the kids doing the bullying during the day because they weren’t in my classes, but everyone rode the bus… smart, not-so-smart, strong, not-so-strong…everyone and you needed to learn to handle yourself in a variety of situations. I just think it’s a little odd that our small school district has such drama over buses. As a side note, is the proper pluralization of the word, “Bus,” busses or buses?

            1. We had the buses vs. busses discussion here before and I believe that both are allowable according to some dictionaries but “busses” just seems wrong to me. In my world, “busses” is the plural of those kisses that great aunts give you when they buss you on the cheek. The plural of the “bus” that you drive should be “buses”.

            2. New Scott:

              I commend your good sense.
              No, we cannot shelter our children from the rough-and-tumble of the world. Nor should we try. It is part of growing up. You know, …”stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
              If they cannot manage a bus ride, how in the world will they deal with a mean boss someday?
              Are the children of Decatur such frail flowers that they cannot withstand the potential horrors of a 15-30 minute bus ride? In rural areas, the bus stops, and every kid in the house gets on, and they all ride to town ….together. What is it that those “rubes” know that we don’t?

            3. I have to admit I’m extremely surprised by some of these comments. Getting the sh*t kicked out of you, should not be considered “character building,” and something that just needs to be accepted as part of growing up. I’m sick and tired of every few months, seeing children, even in grade school range, committing suicide. And when the story eventually filters out, adults were aware it was happening, and took a “kids will be kids” it’s just part of life attitude about it. Even verbal harassment should not be tolerated. No student should be intimidated on the bus, or feel like they need to skip school because they know adults aren’t dealing with these matters seriously. Kids are getting nastier and meaner, and this type of crap needs to get nipped in the bud. Corrupt away- most kids know the basics about smoking and sex at the grade school level already so what they hear on the bus probably only ads to their knowledge base, but accepting harassment and bullying as just part of growing up? NO.

              1. To be clear, my comments — and, based on posting history, I imagine others here — were in reference to life’s challenges and difficult people, and how important it is that children learn to navigate and weather them as they grow. It was not advocating we turn a blind eye to aggravated assault, bullying, torment or anything else that transcends the arena of diverse social navigation in a complex world.

                Recognizing the importance of one does not equate to support for the other.

                1. “Recognizing the importance of one does not equate to support for the other.”

                  Gee, really? Thank you ever so much for this valuable nugget, I shall carry it with me always. I enjoy a shot of passive aggressive with my morning coffee, but I know I don’t have room to talk! 😉

              2. I don’t think anyone here is advocating that we accept chronic harassment and bullying. If that is indeed occurring, then (1) it isn’t just happening on the bus, and (2) segregating bus riders by age isn’t necessarily going to prevent it. Bullying needs to be dealt with, promptly and with all seriousness. But structuring the bus operations in an attempt to minimize bullying (whether that is ongoing or just could potentially happen in somebody’s opinion) is a case of letting the tail wag the dog, and represents mis-allocation of funds that could be more productively spent in a dozen ways.

                1. All fair points from all of you guys- and it wasn’t my intention to suggest anyone would turn a blind eye to aggravated assault or anything similar. Really I was just coming from a place of frustration, because it’s my impression that as a society, we have become too complacent and tolerant of mean/rude behavior (from kids, teens, everyone), and it would be nice to see that get clamped down on, it’s already way out of hand (says me).

                  It’s complicated because there is absolutely a value to appropriately asserting yourself, and learning to deal with difficult people and situations, and I guess my real concern is for the students who for whatever reason, are unwilling/able to deal on their own.

                  Having said all that, when I read the cost of buses a few months ago, it really was eye-popping. So if a potential solution is mixing ages on the bus, it should at the very least be explored to see what the actual savings are, and if it’s practical. And perhaps there’s a way to allay concerns that this creates for parents, because it is obviously a concern for some. I don’t like zero tolerance policies, but maybe a three strikes and you’re off the bus for the year, or something like that. If there were far fewer routes, it would be much easier to get creative with a monitoring system, that doesn’t involve extra adult supervision. Involving students and their thoughts about how to accomplish something like that would be ideal.

              3. I agree that bullying should not be tolerated. Children might as well learn now what will not be tolerated once they reach adulthood when bullying behavior causes them trouble at work or is even considered harrassment or assault or other activities with civil or criminal penalties. Teaching children how to prevent bullying, handle conflict without bullying, and appropriately react to bullying–either as a victim or bystander, is just like teaching them how to behave in a restaurant, develop good studying skills, or say please and thank you–good life lessons that go beyond the specific skill being taught. It’s not about keeping children in a protective bubble, it’s about modelling for them how to behave and react properly outside the bubble. Unfortunately, studies show that bullying is learned and a cycle that has to be broken. The bully has often been bullied. Even more subtly among girls, the mean girl of today may have a mother who was a mean girl herself, even though she no longer is a social bully, and so she thinks that ostracization and meanness are the norm for the preteen/teen environment. That’s why schools have to try to break the cycle and develop a more cooperative culture. I have to say that I think CSD really does take bullying seriously, as do many of our families, so our middle school and high school cultures seem a lot less mean that what I hear about from other local schools, even private schools. Not perfect, and sometimes the family of a bullying victim has to speak up, but really not so bad.

                Despite the fact that I believe that bullying is a toxic experience for students and should be avoided, I am not worried about mixing high school and middles school kids. First of all, bullying should not be allowed on buses, at any age level, whether the age spread is narrow or wide. Secondly, I really believe that the brains of high school students are developmentally more mature so high schoolers are more likely to model empathy and ethical behavior for middle schoolers, rather than be a corrupting or threatening force. I am much more worried about middle schooler vs. middle schooler behavior.

              4. I can’t add much more to what Scott, AHID and STG have said but I will say that I WAS bullied so I know exactly what it’s like to be on the receiving end of it. I wasn’t talking about turning a blind eye in the slightest bit, nor would I ever. What I said was that I can’t shelter my son from every possible harm and he’s going to need to learn to handle difficult situations. Part of that handling, is learning when to speak up or when to seek the shelter of a sympathetic “big kid.” I’m sure we don’t want this topic to change to tackle bullying, but trust me, I’m not a kids-will-be-kids kind of parent on that subject.

        2. A great comment in theory, but in practice? Maybe I was just a wuss, but I wouldn’t wish that sort of incessant bullying on anyone. Even as a character-building exercise. It affected school work, everything else.

          And the broader the age difference, the greater the likelihood of this occurring, based solely on my unscientific opinion.

          1. If there is incessant bullying going on, then it’s not just happening on the bus and it needs to be addressed. (Maybe you only encountered the bully(s) on the bus, but believe me, they he or she or they were tormenting somebody every chance they got.)

            1. If separating 6-12 grades is driving that much cost/complexity and constraint it does not seem worth it… like you say aggie for such a short time. I could also see more centralized pick up spots vs the wander with many stops through the neighborhoods. Especially for the older kids(how many ride the bus anyway?)…

            2. I agree that if there’s bullying on the bus it’s occurring elsewhere. But in my experience and observation, it’s often worst on the bus. Tight quarters, minimal supervision and all that. The exact opposite of the whole “eyes on the street” theory.

              I also agree that if it’s going on, it needs to be addressed. I don’t know the situation at CSD, and am obviously only basing it on my own character-building experiences, but I personally wouldn’t be quite so flippant about combining the six grades on one bus route. Maybe it would actually be better and 12th graders have no interest in 6th graders and would look out for them. But I’m not sure either way and don’t see it as cut and dry. Just one opinion.

    1. I agree we are small enough to deal with any trouble.But on a bus of mixed ages would we even hear about the trouble that may happen. I like to thing yes. But would we.

  9. Option 2 is at least an improvement over the current schedule. It seems to take the railroad tracks into account by pairing the k-3 schools on the north and on the south with slightly different starts. It seems to recognize that Renfro & DHS are really close AND centrally located (unlike some of the other schools).

    But I am mystified yet again by the Superintendent’s handling of this. It is as though nothing was learned from last year’s brouhaha. She only puts 2 options the board, and 1 is to stay the same. The committees worked through the fall (and my thanks to the members for all the time they expended!), but she doesn’t put it to a vote until April. Last year, the administration claimed that they didn’t have time to come up with another plan. Sounds kinda familiar. And not in a good way.

  10. I wasn’t able to attend meeting but I’d like to hear a report of the discussion. Particularly curious if there was any mention of k-3 and 4/5 ending at the same time…or exploration of reversing the k-3 and 4/5 times so that schools start in age order….and that the school that is most likely closest to people (K-3) starts before the furthest.

    To be clear I truly want the HS to start later than current and that RMS and DHS be coordinated better….just worried that the rest of it is not thought out. Oh well though it won’t impact my family next year (except for the traffic) and who knows what the 2013-2014 school year has in store….

  11. I still can’t believe our school start times are so messed up and constantly changing due to a bus schedule in a community that is only 4 square miles.

    Also let’s not forget this wild 4/5 Academy experiment that doesn’t seem to do anything other than create more travel time for parents. Why not go back to the basic K-5 model?

  12. I am glad that RMS and DHS will be aligned and starting later. I think families should continue to speak up and request that Option 2 be modified so that FAVE start no earlier than 8 AM. There should be a way for that to happen if enough smart people work on it. If a bunch of smart people cannot make it happen with the number of buses and ~$1.1 million dollars budgeted for transportation, then there is something wrong with how we are set up in Decatur.

  13. Late to the game, but couple of thoughts-
    1. Couldn’t some parents or retired peeps volunteer to be back of the bus monitors for the shared Renfroe/DHS buses? Bus driver up front, parent in the back, some eyes on all.
    2. Are there currently buses picking up kids at the local K-3 and taking them to the 4/5? I grew up in a K-3/4-6/7&8/9-12 district, and those that lived near the K-3 walked there, and were bussed from there to the 4-6, and vice versa. That eliminated a lot of twisty routes, and allowed for one drop off spot if the parents/family was running late. Though not much drop off– most people walked or took the bus, there wasn’t so much of a parent chauffeur thing going on back then.

    1. Re 1.: Great idea and I support it althought I’m afraid that there are liability issues that prevent the use of volunteer bus monitors (but maybe not!) Also, my kids would kill me if I volunteered for their bus……..

      Re 2: I like this idea. It’s a hub and spoke concept that incorporates walk and roll. I also prefer your system’s config. I’d like a 4-6/7-8 configuration. IMHO, there’s a big difference between age 11-12 year old sixth graders and age 12-14 year old seventh/eighth graders. I’d love to keep the sixth graders in elementary school. One barrier has been that Glennwood and FAVE haven’t been built to handle 3 grades and switching the RMS building and the 4/5 building is a big deal. (But nowhere near as big as closing schools and major renovations or rebuilds.) However, if FAVE is already too small for upcoming classes and is going to need additional building, maybe the 4-6 concept could be considered…..

Comments are closed.