JCPS Board votes to approve new school start time proposal

The board voted to approve the start time proposed 6 to 1.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:04 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Jefferson County Public Schools Board has approved the new school start time proposal.

”So we have passed this motion with the understanding that we will continue to do the work to make sure everything is successful,” the board announced.

According to the JCPS Twitter page, the board voted to approve the start time proposed six to one. Board member Linda Duncan was the only one who voted against the proposal.

The board left the door open for possible changes in the future.

The new proposal, titled “Smart Start,” was announced by JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, creating a range of nine different start times from 7:40 am to 9:40 am for K-12 students. Dawson Orman and DuValle Early Childhood center will start at 10:40 a.m. with the dismissal time at 5:20 p.m.

“We cannot go another year with kids missing instruction,” Pollio said at the meeting.

Pollio has said since the beginning that the lack of start times is hurting bus drivers and student attendance.

“I have a bus that does not come until 10 a.m.,” principal of Newburg Middle School Shamika Johnson. “By the time that bus comes, we are already in third period, we’ve started lunch and our students have missed half of the day.”

“We have a school bus that runs consistently 30 to 75 minutes late every day, which means many of the students on that bus will miss instructional time,” Fern Creek Elementary principal said Tonya Arnold said.

“We also have multiple buses each and every day that are arriving two hours late,” Waggner High School Principal Dr. Sarah Hitchings said.

The three principals were in support of the plan, but not every educator is fully on board. Michael Kicklighter is a JCPS teacher, and he has some concerns.

“Have we looked at this plan hard enough to understand the impact that it will have on our students of color and our students that are underprivileged to begin with,” Kicklighter said.

Kicklighter says the late start times will inconvenience those families the most. He says it’s a solution to the busing problem, but it could set them back years in their work toward racial equity.

Board member Sarah McIntosh says she understands the concerns of parents and others, but the plan is something that needs to be done.

“What we are doing now isn’t working and to not make a change is to just accept a systemic failure,” McIntosh said.

Under the plan, middle and high schools would start later. Pollio says it helps adolescents in schools and it’s better for their health.

Board member Linda Duncan has a problem with that.

“I just feel like safety dictates the older kids come on the early schedule instead of the youngest kids on the early schedule,” Duncan said.

Pollio says over two-thirds of JCPS schools are elementary schools, and there’s no just way to avoid it some early times.

Duncan was the only board member who voted no, but it wasn’t a hard no. She just wants another option.

“The beauty of a start time plan is that we can make adjustments. We can bring back changes to you if necessary,” Pollio said.

The plan will start during the 2023-2024 school year.

Pollio said they can bring feedback to the school board after a few weeks, but it’ll take months to do a deep dive into the data and see just how well the plan is doing.