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BoE to weigh staggering start times for schools
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School traffic has long been a contentious issue in Bryan County -- especially in South Bryan.

Now, one school board member is asking the Bryan County BoE to consider staggering school start times as a way to alleviate traffic.

District 3 representative Charlie Johnson asked the board to include on next month's agenda discussion of staggering the Richmond Hill schools start times.

"Staggering school start times would help with traffic issues," said Johnson.

The amount of time children spend riding or waiting on the bus were also cited by Johnson in a blog on headlined School Start Times.

The blog received a number of responses from residents, mostly in support of the idea, but also included questions about the impact it would have in other areas, like parents having to leave for work before the bus comes if schools start later.

Johnson said Friday there seems to be a lot of interest in the idea, and he has received numerous comments and emails.

"Bringing it up now gives us time to consider the pros and cons, determine if a cost would be associated, and if a change in times would have a significant impact," he said.

Currently, Richmond Hill schools all begin between 8 and 8:15 a.m. and are released between 2:30 and 3:05 p.m.

Alternatives expressed by Johnson include beginning some schools at 7:30 a.m.

Interim Superintendent John Oliver said Friday that the possibility of altering school start times is currently in the preliminary stages.

"I think it may be a good idea," he said, "but there are issues to consider."

Among those issues are the number of buses that would be required, conflicts with parent work schedules possibly leaving children unattended at home before or after school, and conflict with extracurricular activities and athletics.

"If the middle and high school grades go to a later start time, after school activities will be delayed also, pushing them even later. Middle school has time limits and has to be finished with activities by 7 p.m.," he said. "A later school start time would have an impact."

Oliver said every family would have unique situations to consider, and he felt the board would be good listeners in the process.

"I think they (the board) will be very deliberate with any decision they make," he said.

Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds said he thought it would help this year if they could do it, but couldn't say if it would be needed next year because of the new school opening.

"I think opening the new (elementary) school will also help with traffic concerns along Hwy. 144," Reynolds said Friday.

Richmond Hill Elementary is to move into its new facilities beside Carver in time for the opening of next school year, leaving the current facilities to pre-K, alternative schooling, and community education classes, according to school officials.

Johnson, in his blog, asked for parent input with questions about the pros and cons of the idea. Those questions; should the times be staggered and why, which schools should be considered, is 7:30 a.m. to early to start school, and the benefits and challenges the idea presents.

In other business, the board unanimously voted approval for two fundraisers at BCES -- Jump Rope for Heart and a 4-H bake sale.

Also approved was a donation of $300 from the BCES PTO to BCES for Fun Saturday, and girl's volleyball as a GHSA activity for Richmond Hill High School beginning the 2009-2010 school year.

In addition, Johnson, in closing comments, told the board that Chatham County Schools wants to start a multiple county coalition, seeking to raise the legal drop-out age from 16 to 18.

"I think changing the age to 18 is a wise move," Johnson said. "We need to offer more vocational and technical training for those not on a college track."

Board member Joe Pecenka said he would like to hear more about the coalition and push for more vocational and technical offerings.

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