School Board split on changing school start times

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School Board split on changing school start times

Connor Darby

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On Thursday, March 28, the Volusia County School Board voted unanimously to alter the district bell schedule. The new schedule will change high school start and end times to 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., middle school to 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and elementary school to 7:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Board members were split on whether or not to implement the new schedule for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school year, ultimately deciding to enact the change sooner rather than later.

Board Member Ida Wright initially motioned to postpone the implementation of the new time change and was seconded by Board member Ruben Colon.

“It’s good for kids all the way around,” Chairman Carl Persis, who advocated an earlier implementation, said immediately before the vote on Wright’s motion took place. “It’s better than what we currently have. Why would you postpone something that’s better for children?”

Wright and Colon both voted for delayed implementation. Board members Linda Cuthbert and Jamie Haynes were joined by Chairman Persis in voting against the motion, resulting in a 2-3 vote, defeating it.

The failed motion was immediately followed by one to implement the schedule during the 2019-20 school year proposed by Cuthbert and seconded by a seemingly reluctant Haynes.

“You’re using my words against me: ‘What is best for students,’” Haynes said to Persis after she seconded Cuthbert’s motion. “That is where I live. I have to live with what is best for students. And sometimes as adults, we don’t live with what is best for students. We live with what is best for the adult world.”

Colon did not disagree with Haynes’ rationale of putting students at the forefront for making any decision regarding the implementation of the schedule, however he argued that what is best for students is to delay, rather than rush into change.

“What is best for students is that we do this in the most calculated way possible,” Colon said. “Having planned it out with a solid plan to implement. That’s my feeling. And I don’t believe, nor do I trust, that we can do this in one-hundred days.”

The short time frame to put a plan in place for implementation of the new bell schedule was the main sticking point of Haynes, with her going as far as to say that she would change her vote if Interim Chief Academic Officer Rachel Hazel did not feel as though her department could implement it so that it is best for students.

“I really feel like either way there is that risk,” Hazel said. “I can commit my department to do whatever we need to do to problem solve and that is what we will do. And it is just a matter of how long do we want to continue the discussions or how long do we feel we need for the discussions.”

As Hazel concluded her thoughts, she left the Board with wisdom from a recent workshop about slowing down change to make impact.

“Build your relationships around the work,” Hazel said. “Make the change now. You have kids who are in the situation now.”

The final vote for Cuthbert’s motion was 3-2 with Cuthbert, Haynes and Persis voting in favor of implementation of the bell schedule for the 2019-20 school year and Colon and Wright voting against it.