'This is what is right for kids': JCPS board approves Pollio's new school start times

Diane Porter, right, chair of Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education, and superintendent Marty Pollio listened as speakers gave their opinions on the proposed overhaul of the student assignment plan.

The vast majority of Jefferson County Public School students will start classes at a different time next year following board members' approval of Superintendent Marty Pollio's proposal on Tuesday night.

All but 19 of the district's schools will have a new start time, ranging from 7:40 to 9:40 a.m. - aside from some early childhood centers that will start at 10:40. Many elementary schools will have an earlier start time, while many middle and high schoolers will start later.

JCPS changes start times for schools:Here's what parents should know and what they can do

The board vote was 6-1, with District 5's Linda Duncan being the sole dissenting vote.

"This is what is right for kids," Pollio said ahead of the vote, pointing to the hours of instruction students have missed this year due to buses regularly getting students to school late. Since news of the changes broke, Pollio has insisted this was the only solution to the district's bus driver shortage and pointed to research showing the health benefits of a later start time for older students.

Three principals spoke during the meeting about how that shortage has not only negatively impacted their students, but also staff members who have altered their schedules and sacrificed their planning periods, and some who have even signed up to drive buses in the mornings and evenings.

When might your JCPS school start?Search the database, compare with other times

Accelerated learning has been a major goal for schools after the pandemic, Waggener High Principal Sarah Hitchings said, but with the late arrival of so many students, "We simply cannot do it."

Pollio said this was one of the few proposals nearly all district administrators support, but many parents and teachers have questioned the plan. Some pointed to the challenges working parents will have with younger kids while others pointed out that many middle and high schoolers will still have the same start time.

A couple of hundred people signed a petition related to the district's magnet admissions process, which could be further complicated by the start time changes.

And one teacher highlighted how the plan would negatively impact his school, where students have moderate to severe disabilities.

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"It was more than obvious that JCPS hired MIT to do this proposal and it's more than obvious that they looked at each school as a building with students and not as a school with students with special needs," Churchill Park teacher Zach Fischer said. "They didn't ask, 'What are the needs of these students?'"

Despite the concerns, board members agreed with Pollio that the change was necessary to improving student achievement.

Families unhappy with their students' new start times will have the opportunity to apply to a school with a different time. The transfer application portal will open May 1, and many schools within the same clusters have different start times.

Teachers and staff also will have the opportunity to apply to work at another school with a different start time.

Additionally, Pollio pointed to the YMCA's Child Enrichment Program, which could assist families with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Through a partnership with the district, the Y provides before and after school care, which includes transportation to and from schools. For nonmembers, prices start at $62 a week.

More:What work has been done with JCPS' 'Future State' strategic plan?

Contact reporter Krista Johnson at kjohnson3@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Jefferson County Public School board approves new school start times