Danville wants to hear from parents on schools' start times

DANVILLE — School officials will take a look at start times for all of the Danville district's schools soon, and they're inviting parents to weigh in on the matter.

This year, the district increased the school day by 25 minutes at the elementary level and 15 minutes at the high school level. The longer school day had to be negotiated with the Danville Education Association, which represents teachers, and was included in the latest DEA contract that was settled in July.

"When we made those changes, we needed to adjust our start times," Superintendent Mark Denman said, adding the district wanted to have more input from parents and guardians before doing so. However, "the contract was settled in the middle of summer vacation, so we knew we wouldn't have gotten a good representation from the community."

So now, the district has formed a committee to review the times and see whether changes are needed. It will hold its first meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Jackson Building, 516 N, Jackson St., Danville.

The committee will be chaired by Danville High School Principal Phil Cox, North Ridge Middle School Assistant Principal Angelique Simon and East Park Elementary School Principal Chris Rice. They hope to have parents and staff from all of the schools as well as representatives from the First Student bus company on the panel.

"They may recommend making changes or tweaks, or they may recommend continuing with the way things are," Denman said. Any recommendations would have to be approved by the school board.

Currently, the eight elementary schools begin at 7:50 a.m. and dismiss at 2:30 p.m., while North Ridge and South View middle schools begin at 9 a.m. and go until 3:45 p.m.

Most high school students go from 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m. Freshmen and others students who take an extra class, known as "early bird," start at 7:25 a.m.

Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, the district's alternative school, goes from 8:25 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

"The biggest change probably would be to the middle schools," Denman said, noting that the start and ending times were moved back 20 minutes.

While he hasn't fielded any complaints, he has heard that some teachers and parents are concerned the change doesn't leave much time between the end of the school day and the start of athletic events and other extracurricular activities.

"Most of the games start at 4 p.m. If you have an away game, students have to miss more class," he pointed out.

If the committee looks at moving times, Denman said, it must take into consideration the district's transportation availability.

"We only have one fleet of buses, which we use multiple times for each level," he said, adding there are four main routes — early bird high school, elementary school, regular high school and middle school. Buses make smaller runs to Bailey Academy and preschool sites during the day.

"To have the same school day for all of our students, we'd have to lease nearly three times the number of buses we have and three times the number of drivers," he said.

Denman said parents are encouraged to join the committee. They can contact their child's principal, if they're interested.

"Or they can call and let their opinions be known," he said.

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