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Salem school board weighs later start times for middle and high schools

By Ryan Lessard
Union Leader Correspondent

July 18. 2018 10:39PM




SALEM — District administration informed the School Board at its Tuesday night meeting that a subcommittee of the district’s design team working to restructure high school scheduling will be including a recommendation to push start times for the middle and high schools from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

“It’s been 7:30 for as long as I can remember,” said Superintendent Michael Delahanty in an interview after the meeting.

He said the recommendation was presented earlier than the full report expected in mid to late August because it would have implications for the 2019-2020 school year budget, which the board is currently working on.

“I wanted to alert the board to this particular recommendation now,” Delahanty said.

The main expenses will come from additional buses required to meet the need for both middle and high school students and the elementary school students who start school at 9 a.m.

Right now, there’s enough time between start times that the buses can drop off the older students and still make it in time to deliver the elementary students.

While the design team report will recommend a full hour later, Delahanty said another option being explored is pushing the start times to between 8 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. This would mean fewer buses would be needed.

The board directed Delahanty to draw up a cost analysis for both options. He guesses the difference in cost will range from about $150,000 to about $450,000.

Studies have shown that later start times provide adolescents with additional sleep, which is beneficial to their health and subsequently their academic performance.

Other school districts in the state have made similar changes, such as Oyster River and Portsmouth school districts.

The board will receive the cost analysis in the coming weeks and discuss it at its next meeting on Aug. 21. Board members will need to approve a plan by October if it is going to impact the next budget.

The design team, which is made up mostly of school administrators and teachers, is working to reform the high school’s four-by-four block schedule. It will likely recommend moving to an A/B schedule, Delahanty said. Currently, students take four classes for 90 days and then take four different classes in the next 90 days. The new system would interlace three to four classes on one day and a different set of classes the next.

“It helps with learning continuity but also course progression,” Delahanty said.

The new system will have less potential for scheduling conflicts for students. It will also bring the freshman schedule more in line with the higher grades by giving them the same bell schedule and A/B structure, while maintaining the “team environment” that distinguishes the freshman program, Delahanty said.

During the last meeting, the board also approved several federal grants totalling over $1.2 million.

ldnews@unionleader.com


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