COLUMBIA — Students across the Columbia Public School District are reacting — often with vehement opposition — to the proposed changes of school start times, which would result from a new district busing system.
School start and end times would be:
7:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for high school students.
8:10 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. for middle school students.
9:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. for elementary school students.
Jillian Dos Santos, 16, a 10th grader at Rock Bridge High School, started a Facebook page and Twitter account that has given students an outlet to address the school board and vent their frustrations.
"Mr. Graham (a Rock Bridge world history teacher) is always telling us to take initiative and to make things happen, so after school I made a Facebook group and Twitter and a plan," Dos Santos wrote in an email. "It gets frustrating when all you hear are complaints but there's no action."
The three-tier transportation system is not an action item for the Columbia School Board's Monday meeting, but a presentation highlighting the advantages of the proposal will be given from Columbia District Transportation Committee Chair Christine King, who is also the board vice president.
In the presentation, Columbia high schools are in the first tier, which starts at 7:20 a.m. Some say the early start time will interfere with students' extracurricular activities.
"The drama kids have show choir at a zero hour, the athletes have early practices, there's a number of clubs that meet in the morning, and kids meet with teachers and counselors before class they would have to meet at 6:20am," Dos Santos wrote."That's insane!"
The Facebook group and Twitter account were created on Wednesday, and, as of Friday, 468 members on Facebook and 84 followers on Twitter were listening in and engaging with a barrage of grievances. Students from Rock Bridge, Hickman and Douglass high schools were all involved.
Others outside of Dos Santos' Facebook group pose similar concerns. On Twitter, Jeremy Elson responded to the Missourian's query regarding the issue.
"Some high school students have to do animal related chores before school. 7:20 is too early," Elson tweeted, citing the concerns of students who live on farms.
Hickman High School student, Braden Huckaby, 17, was opposed to the change as well.
"It's bullcrap," Huckaby said. "I don't like it. I don't agree with it. You are going to start with the kids who need their sleep, earlier. When I was little, I had so much energy. Now I don't."
Dos Santos' group, which she's calling Students' Say, also started a petition, which has been posted to Change.org. It asks the Columbia Public School Board to rethink the estimated proposed start times and take seriously the concerns of the community. As of Friday evening, it had 100 supporters.
People will be allowed to comment during general public comment at the board meeting, which occurs before the three-tier presentation, said Columbia Public School spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.
Although start times have not been officially decided, some extracurricular activities would have to be moved to accommodate the new system.
"Some activities are already that early, it wouldn't be totally unheard of," Baumstark said. "Is it ideal for every family? But none of these situations are. No matter what we decide to do, some people will be unhappy. We are going to have to make some compromises."
Superintendent Chris Belcher met with a group of high school seniors from Hickman, Douglass and Rock Bridge recently. He said he will take into consideration high school students' busier schedules before making any decision.
"I've visited with these seniors, and they really made a good argument," Belcher said. "They have more activities than other students."
Columbia Public Schools sent a survey to parents, faculty and students to get their opinion. The results showed that 2,247 of 5,184, or 43.3 percent of respondents, wanted the current start times to stay in place.
"We knew it was going to be a hot button issue," Baumstark said. "It's not surprising that we're getting these kind of reactions. Everyone's got an opinion, and we want to try and be respectful."
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