Starting and release times for three Richmond Hill schools have been pushed back for the 2017-2018 school year, but some parents are not happy with the change.
Richmond Hill Elementary School, Richmond Hill Primary School and George Washington Carver Elementary School will now start at 8:45 a.m. and get out at 3:45 p.m. The school day at those buildings was 8:10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Superintendent Paul Brooksher said the changes were done for several reasons both internal and external.
“Staff has put hundreds of hours into studying our bus routes to make them as efficient as possible, but we realize there is no way to make everyone happy,” he said. “We have to do what is best for the district as a whole.”
A petition at Change.org disagreeing with the new times has been signed by about 100 people. You can find it at https://www.change.org/p/kkrupp-bryan-k12-ga-us-bryan-county-board-of-education-wants-to-change-school-start-and-release-times/c?source_location=petition_show.
The majority of comments on the petition come from parents whose children attend those schools and are concerned about getting to work on time in the morning and the impact less time in the evening will have on students for getting home work done and participating in recreational activities.
Brooksher said the district will offer before-school care for students at the three buildings beginning at 7 a.m. Information is available through the Bryan County Schools Community Education offices.
The later starting times should also help alleviate the traffic issues on Highway 144 at Frances Meeks Way that occur on school days, especially in the morning.
That issue was addressed by Richmond Hill City Councilman Russ Carpenter during the city’s July 11 town hall on growth and traffic issues. Carpenter said it is an example of how government agencies in the county are trying to work together to address issues.
Councilman Johnny Murphy during the town hall also noted that better planning would have spread those three schools out into neighborhoods rather than being located in a cluster, but the explosive growth in South Bryan County was not an issue when the schools were built.
The board of education is planning to build a new elementary school in the vicinity of the current Richmond Hill Middle School to address growth. A new high school and new middle school are also in the planning stages.
Brooksher said transportation in South Bryan County is operated on a three-tier basis. The high school and McAllister Elementary School are one tier and both start at 7:40 a.m. The middle school is its own tier due to the large percentage of bus riders, and RHPS, RHES and GWC are a combined tier.
Some who signed the petition mentioned studies that show younger students do better in school with earlier start times, while older students learn better with later start times.
Brooksher said he has heard of such studies, but the large amount of athletic and other extracurricular activities at the high school — including travel for sporting events — makes it impossible to start later.