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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2007

New start times just an idea, for now

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The idea of altering start times for Perrysburg's elementary, junior high, and high schools is in such an early stage that it's "probably premature to call it a proposal," according to the district's school board president.

"I would like to say I don't think anything is likely to happen next year. The reason I don't think it's likely is there needs to be a lot of conversation," Walt Edinger said.

For that reason, Mr. Edinger said he plans to go slow and have the board take its time gauging the community's reaction to the idea, which was discussed at a recent school board meeting.

The possibility exists that:

••Elementary students would start 15 minutes later, at 9:15 a.m.

••Junior high students would start at 8 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m., as they do now, allowing for an extra half hour of sleep.

••High school classes would start five minutes earlier, at

7:30 a.m.

Currently, buses in the 36-vehicle Perrysburg fleet make two runs in the morning, carrying an average of 40-50 students per run, according to superintendent Michael Cline.

Buses leave the lot at 6:15 a.m. to pick up junior high and high school students. Junior high students reach school at 7:15 a.m., and the high school students about 10 minutes later.

The buses then make a second run to pick up elementary students, who arrive at their schools from 8:45 to

8:55 a.m.

The change discussed by the school board would have the buses making three runs. The additional run would enable the high school and junior high students to be carried separately.

"This would be a big change for folks," Mr. Edinger said. "Parents who would have to alter their work schedules would need plenty of lead time. We'd be pushing back the start times for the youngest kids."

He says he's been hearing from parents of high school students who say that children of that age need more sleep, not less.

And indeed, according to Mr. Cline, certain districts in other parts of the country do start their elementary schools earlier than their high schools because the younger children "are more likely to be awake and alert because of their sleep habits. High school and junior high are more geared to midmorning."

For Mr. Cline, the discussion of the issue began when the city of Perrysburg and the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority last year began analyzing how TARTA could improve its service to Perrysburg, which believes the routes TARTA provides are not worth the $1 million it pays the transit authority yearly. Perrysburg officials are pushing for legislation in Columbus that would permit communities to opt out of regional transportation pacts.

Mr. Cline says he saw the talks between Perrysburg and TARTA as a potential money-saver and asked TARTA what it could do for the schools. TARTA responded with a proposal in principle to transport 682 students, charging them $1 per ride regardless of where they lived; the school district, in turn, would pay TARTA $86,760 per year.

School officials deemed the cost too high. Adding a third bus run would cost the school district $17,000 more per year, mostly in fuel costs, but the amount of drivers' time and buses needed would be reduced because some of the runs would overlap, Mr. Cline said.

Mr. Edinger says a lot of discussion and study must be done before any decision can be made.

"There's more than one way that we can try to meet the needs of our kids, adjust schedules, and save money," he said.



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