VBCPS school board votes to change school start times


Bethany Hansel, Managing Editor

On Tuesday, November 27, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools school board voted unanimously to change the high school start times to a later time.

After several years of back-and-forth arguments over whether high school start times should be pushed back to later, with ultimate decisions to keep it the same, the school board finally made the decision to make the change come the 2020 school year.

The school board cited their primary reason behind their decision to change the times as the immense research that concludes that adolescents are healthier and function better when they get more sleep, and that students learn and perform better later in the day.

The next few months will consist of figuring out the logistics of it all. It has not yet been decided exactly what time high schools will start and how the schedule will be organized across elementary, middle, and high schools.

“There are three models to follow,” explained Avila. “The first two follow these two start times:  Elementary, High, Middle or Elementary, Middle, High. The third considers moving all three times back with the start time of around 8:00 AM for High, Elementary, Middle. Ideally, high school students would start at 8:30 AM.  Community feedback will be solicited next to see what times fit best.”

Some students expressed concerns over after-school activities, particularly sports, after the times are pushed back.

“Especially at this time of the year when it gets darker earlier, it’ll mean that after-school activities might have to end earlier, or we’ll just be in the dark,” stated Shirell Washington, a Tallwood student-athlete.

Having been a complaint brought up in past discussions on the topic, Dr. Avila explained how schools are planning to address this issue.

“Some high schools will now receive lighted sports fields in order to prepare for later dismissal times. Tallwood will receive lighted softball and baseball fields this spring,” revealed Avila.

However, students brought up other concerns that they had.

“Some people have jobs and responsibilities or have to like watch over their younger siblings after school, so this makes it really inconvenient for them,” stated Isabelle Mendez, Tallwood Student.

Despite this, the school board ultimately felt that concerns over student health and performance were more important. However, some students refuted this by explaining why they felt that the change was pointless and wouldn’t have any sort of real positive impact.

“We’re tired no matter what. They can switch times all they want and high schoolers would still be tired….It just means I’m gonna stay up later,” stated Tallwood student Angel Taduran.

Dr. Avila somewhat agreed with this statement, explaining that even although he believes in and acknowledges the benefits of pushing the start times back, he is skeptical of how much students will take advantage of it.

“I think it is a good move on behalf of student mental health, but I also think that adolescents will stay up longer if they do not need to be at school at 7:05 AM,” stated Avila.

However, some students were excited about the chance to sleep in.

“I can’t function that early in the morning, so I think it’ll be way better if I have the chance to sleep in,” stated Frances Summers.

Though many students acknowledged the chance to sleep in later, most students ultimately felt that they were losing more than they were gaining.

“I honestly think they should just keep it the way it is. They’re really not doing anything to help….I like having my whole afternoon to myself after track practice. When they push the times back, they’re taking away our entire day,” explained Shirell Washington.

Despite the complaints and protests that some students and their families have put up, the decision to change the times has been made, and in the coming months, the school system will be working hard to listen to and address all these questions, comments, and concerns as best as possible.