It’s an idea that could impact thousands of students, their parents and taxpayers. Orange County Public Schools is considering the idea of moving up school start times.
Karen Simasek attended the school board work session Thursday night. Simasek said she will do whatever it takes to protect her four young children.
She has second, sixth, eighth and ninth graders in Orange County Public Schools.
“I walk with her. I insist on it because I would feel horrible if something happened,” Simasek said.
The Maitland mother is especially concerned about her 15-year-old daughter and other children in her neighborhood.
“If I’m worried about my child and at least I get to see her safely get on the bus, what are those parents feeling at work? Are they constantly worrying, waiting for that text, waiting for that phone call that they safely got to school?” Simasek said.
That’s why Simasek is grateful she’s able to walk with her daughter at 6 a.m on school days, so she can catch a bus to Winter Park High School.
“I think it’s wrong. I don’t think we want to have a school system that’s supporting going to a bus stop in the dark,” Simasek said.
The Orange County Public School Board is working on a plan to change that for as many students as possible.
Board members are considering pushing up school start times by an average of 30 minutes for high school, middle school and elementary school students.
District leaders believe students, especially the ones in high school, will perform better in school if they don’t have to start their days at the crack of dawn.
However, the decision could be costly.
“Research is clear, logistics are complicated,” explained Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.
Board members are weighing several options, ranging from no additional transportation costs, to buying $45 million worth of new buses and spending $30 million a year to run them.
“You cannot have student achievement unless you have safety first and the kids feel that people are looking out for them and making sure they’re getting to school safe,” Simasek said.
School Board members want to survey parents, students and community leaders before making any decisions.
At this time, the earliest later school start times would go into effect is Fall 2017.