The Pearland ISD board of trustees met with campus representatives and community leaders to discuss early start times at a workshop Nov. 12.
The discussion came months after the board’s decision to not change the school start times. The proposal to change start times was prompted by data stating that high school students need more sleep and should start school later in the day with 8:30 a.m. as a suggested start time. The current start time for high schools in the district is 7:15 a.m.
The district sent out a survey prior to the first discussion. As the survey did not cover what is best for the student, the board is revisiting the issue, trustee Charles Gooden said.
“The point is we had a discussion, and students’ well-being did not come in to the discussion. We’re talking about that now,” Gooden said.
School leaders warned against switching high school start times with other school start times. One reason they gave is that parents will still drop kids off early in order to get to work. Another is if high schoolers start and finish the day earlier, they can take care of younger siblings after school.
The only option that would allow elementary and middle school schedules to remain the same but would allow high schoolers to go in later would be to add an additional bus route. The initial cost would be $8 million for buses—not including staff—with $3 million added yearly to the district’s current transportation budget.
“The most alarming thing we are facing right now is … an $8 million deficit,” Superintendent John Kelly said. “If we didn’t have any constraints, I would say let’s go to a two-tier system, hire additional buses, but the cost is so incredibly high, it’s just not even in the planet. It’s just not even a possibility at present.”
In the end the trustees determined the district does not currently have the means to send high school students to school later.
“We have looked at this, we have agreed that the science is there, we agree with it, but at this moment, fiscal constraints … it’s not something we can overcome at this point. But because we have had this conversation, there are other things we can do to help our student support, to help our staff,” board President Rebecca Decker said.
The workshop was followed by a regular board meeting.