Because of a countywide bus driver shortage, Pasco County school start times will change in January. Some schools will see changes of only 15 minutes (Cypress Creek High), while others will change by up to 90 minutes (Wiregrass Elementary). (Photo: Charmaine George)

When Wesley Chapel students return to school after the winter holiday break, every single school will have new start and end times, with some changing by as much as 90 minutes (see chart on next page).

A shortage of drivers countywide has been causing buses to run late every day throughout the Pasco County School District, so the School Board approved a plan that moves schools into four “tiers” — instead of the current three — to allow existing bus drivers to run an additional route each day.

When the change was proposed, Pasco County Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning explained in a video to parents, “The result of this acute shortage is that many of our students are late arriving to school in the morning, which results in loss of instructional time, and they are late arriving at home in the afternoon and early evening, which puts a strain on families.”

Students at Wiregrass Elementary will see the biggest change in Wesley Chapel, with school times moving 90 minutes earlier. The students currently attend from 9:40 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., but the new schedule has them starting at 8:10 a.m. and ending at 2:20 p.m.

Another big change in Wesley Chapel is that a couple of schools that already start late will start even later. New River and Quail Hollow elementary schools, which currently go from 9:40 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., won’t start school until 30 minutes later, both beginning their day at 10:10 a.m. and ending at 4:20 p.m.

The other six elementary and three middle schools in Wesley Chapel are all changing by 20 or 30 minutes; some starting earlier and others later.

Wiregrass Ranch High students will likely appreciate the extra sleep they will get by their school start time moving 46 minutes later, to 8:10 a.m. instead of their current 7:24 a.m. And, while the other Wesley Chapel high schools are only moving by 15 minutes, those students are now expected to be in their classes, ready to learn, at 7:10 a.m.

A 2017 proposal in Hillsborough County to have high schools start similarly early was widely opposed by parents who cited the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendation that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students more time for adequate sleep, but that change ultimately was not approved by the School Board.

The changes in Pasco County were approved unanimously at the School Board meeting on November 2, and go into effect on January 4.

While the new schedule should allow school buses to run on time and get more kids in the classroom for instructional time, Browning acknowledged that it puts a strain on families to shift their schedules around and find new solutions for childcare during the times they are not in school.

“I don’t like it,” Browning said at the School Board meeting. “I don’t like anything about it. But, I equally dislike having kids miss instructional time before the great teachers we have in this District.”

The new start times will remain in effect for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year and will be reevaluated for the 2022-23 school year.

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment