ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County school board members voted Tuesday to adopt new start and dismissal times for the district next school year.
The biggest change will be for middle school students who will start school 20 minutes earlier at 7:30 a.m. and end the day at 1:50 p.m. All other schools will see about a five-minute difference.
The school district said the schedule changes are needed to keep up with the county’s growth explosion and new development. Each school year, the district said, it adds up to 1,500 students and more than 700 bus riders.
Some parents had voiced concerns about the changes, and the school board acknowledged those concerns, but the members said a committee spent nearly a year coming up with the times and that they are the best option for the current growth in the county.
Many St. Johns parents said middle school students are the last ones who should be starting school the earliest, saying they’re the hardest to get to bed early and up early.
The board members said they would like for middle and high schools to start around the same time, but the district isn't in a position to make that happen yet, and for the time being, student safety is what matters most.
To keep up with demand, some buses had been running double routes. District officials said because of the growth, some students were spending more time on the bus and sometimes were late for class and bus drivers were feeling rushed.
“Something had to give and the drivers were feeling in a rush to get to their spots on time and that’s the last thing we want is a bus driver rushing,” School Board member Patrick Canan said.
Under the newly adopted times, elementary schools and K-8 would start the day at 8:25 a.m. and end five minutes earlier at 2:45 p.m. High school students would start at 9:20 a.m. and leave school at 3:50 p.m.
By comparison, in Duval County, middle schools start at 9:30 a.m., elementary at 8:30 a.m. and high school at 7:15 a.m. In Clay County, middle schools start at 9:30 a.m., elementary at 8:30 a.m. and high school at 7:20 a.m.
St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson said the transition should be an easy one. Many bus stop times will change, but bus routes will remain the same.