The Davenport School Board narrowly approved new district-wide start and end times for the 2014-15 school year on Monday.

However, the 4-3 vote came after more than an hour of discussion and several amendments to the bell time option.

Rather than approve the option recommended by Superintendent Art Tate, the board went with the following changes:

  • 7:35 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.: Adams, Buchanan, Buffalo, Eisenhower, Fillmore, Garfield, Harrison, Hayes, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, McKinley, Monroe, Truman, Washington and Wilson elementary schools.
  • 8:10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Central, North, West, Mid City high schools, Assumption High School and Keystone Academy.
  • 8:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.: Smart, Sudlow, Wood and Williams intermediate schools, JB Young and Walcott elementary and intermediate schools, Blue Grass Elementary School and all other private, Catholic schools.

Board vice president Ken Krumwiede, who voted for the change, said he felt the option was a "compromise" that would generally keep start times similar across all high schools, all intermediate schools, and all elementary schools.

District officials say school times need to change to help balance instruction time. Some schools fall below the required 1,080 hours of instruction time, and one school is as much as 72 hours below.

A district committee also recommended a delay in start times for the high schools, citing research that suggests sleep deprivation in teens impairs their ability to be alert, pay attention, solve problems and retain information.

Board member Nikki DeFauw, who also voted for the change, said she supported a later start for the high schools because of research that shows that a later start leads to less truancy and behavioral problems.

The decision to change start times has been controversial over the last few months. Initially, many parents and students spoke out against later start times for high schools, saying it would leave students with less time for extracurricular activities and after-school jobs.

The board initially approved an option in late April that would have pushed back the start times for the high schools and most elementary schools to 9:05 a.m.

Again, parents, students and staff expressed appealed to the board, which opted to rescind its earlier vote and look again at different options.

Last month, the district released nine different options and asked for feedback from the community at three public forums.

One issue that arose from the meetings revolved around the start times and its impact on the area Catholic schools, which shared bus routes with the district. 

In a letter to the district, principals of the Catholic schools asked the school board to consider keeping them in the earlier bus tier.

Board member Bill Sherwood, who voted for the change, said he sympathized with those concerns. However, he said, the district’s first obligation is to the students in the public school district.

“These are parents who are highly engaged and, as a rule, have the resources that our average kids don’t have,” Sherwood said. “They are better able to cope with these things … there are exceptions to that, but not to the level of what we have in the public schools system.”

Board member Jamie Snyder, who voted against the change, said he strongly supported an option that would move the start time back 15 minutes across the board, saying that it would be less disruptive to students’ current schedule.

“I am really concerned that the potential positives, and I stress potential, certainly don’t outweigh the potential negatives,” he said.

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Another concern brought up by board president Ralph Johanson, who voted against the change, is that Blue Grass, a rural elementary school, is in the later tier of school times.

Currently, the school day at Blue Grass starts at 8:55 a.m. and ends at 3:20 p.m.

Other board members expressed similar concern about elementary students at JB Young and Walcott.

Johanson and Sherwood asked Tate to explore ways to bring the schools' start times more in line with other elementary schools in the district.

Also Monday, the board decided to postpone a vote on whether to stick with Indianapolis-based CSO Architects for the Central High School pool and auditorium project.

During a committee of the whole meeting June 2, representatives of the firm said the construction bids for the project came in around $5 million over budget.

The project initially was estimated at more than $25 million.

Representatives said several things may have factored into the higher cost, such as a underestimation of some building materials.

They added that the size and complexity of the project also may also have driven up the bids.

The board is slated to vote on the issue at its June 23 meeting.

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