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Norfolk School Board won't change school hours for 2020-21 school year

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Posted at 9:17 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 20:03:31-05

NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk School Board has decided not to move ahead with changing school hours for the 2020-21 school year, a spokesperson with Norfolk Public Schools told News 3 Wednesday night.

The vote came during the school board's work session at Granby High School.

Thursday, school representatives said the board will postpone discussions regarding the change until after June 30.

The decision came after a presentation made by school administration that outlined inherent challenges in making the changes that would have taken place in the fall. The challenges included transportation scheduling conflicts, lengthening after-school programs and increased capital improvement costs associated with lighting athletic fields.

Several board members pointed to community concerns that had been shared with them in recent weeks as key to causing them to want to revisit the matter. Concerns included the need for increased child care, the inability to afford the increased cost and the negative impact on athletic schedules and extracurricular activities at the high school level.

"No one disputes the research on the benefits of later start times for high school students," said School Board Chairman Dr. Noelle Gabriel. "And I believe staff has done their due diligence in identifying the issues and complexities of such a change. However, can we make this happen for the upcoming school year? After hearing from staff tonight, I don't think so."

Early last year, school board members gave the community an opportunity to share their thoughts on some huge possible changes, one of which included possible later start times for Norfolk schools. Board members said recent research shows a delayed class time could improve health, sleep, attendance and graduation rates.

In February 2019, the board approved the change in start and dismissal times for the 2020-21 school year through a resolution to enable high schools to start at a later time. The change would have had elementary schools starting between 7:25 and 7:35 a.m. and high schools starting between 8:50 and 9 a.m. Middle school start times would have remained the same.

Some parents said it wasn't about the start time that concerned them - it was when school would be let out.

“My biggest concern is about the school start times. I have two elementary school students and a third that will be there soon. I’m not even concerned with getting them up and getting them there on time. I’m concerned about after school. 1:55 p.m. is really early to pick children up, especially for working parents," parent Danielle Norris told News 3 reporter Samantha German in January 2019.

School districts in other Hampton Roads cities have also considered changing what time their schools would start. In December, the Virginia Beach School Board also decided not to move forward with recommendations to change school start times for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

In October, News 3 reported that there was a growing online petition with more than 10,000 signatures from students in Virginia Beach who did not want the start time to change.