Online petition seeks later start time for York County high schoolers

Photo Courtesy: York County School Division/Facebook.

YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — For two years, Kathy Howe has been pushing for high school students in York County to head to school later. The current start time for four out of five high schools there is 7:20 a.m. Howe thinks it should be 8 a.m. or later.

“The kids are going out the door before the parents,” Howe said. “That’s absurd. There’s something wrong with that, and that’s something I feel needs to be addressed.”

An online petition has more than 300 signatures of support. Howe said the teens aren’t getting enough sleep, and it can have a negative impact on school work and student safety.

“The bottom line is we want to know is York County still considering the possibility of changing the school start times to more traditional ones, starting at even 7:50 a.m. or 8 in the morning, and then staggering them 35 to 40 minutes apart so that the children gain more sleep, are more productive,” Howe said.

York County School Board Chair Barbara Haywood said years ago, a funding shortage forced school buses to stagger their pick-up times. She said one of her questions about changing the start time would be how the school division would pay for more buses to accommodate more students arriving at 8 a.m. or later. York County middle school students currently start the day at 8 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. and elementary school students begin classes at 8:41 a.m. and 8:56 a.m.

Kolbi Shartzer has a junior at Grafton High School. He opposes a later start to the day.

“That’s what school is for, is to prepare them for adulthood. They need to get used to the fact that they’re going to have to get up a little early and go to work,” Shartzer said.

He said a schedule change could complicate child care for some families.

“If you start the high schoolers later than the younger kids, because of the bus situation, you’d have to start the younger kids earlier, then you’ve got younger kids sitting at home by themselves,” he said.

Last year, the school division held a community information session on adolescent sleep patterns. Haywood said the board is still studying the issue and visiting other divisions that have changed schedules. The next regular meeting of the York County School Board is Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at York Hall.