The RSU 40 Board of Directors voted to keep start times the same at district schools, including Medomak Middle School and Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, during a special meeting at Medomak Middle School on Thursday, March 30.
The board received public comment on the matter and reviewed survey data regarding the possibility of later start times.
The majority of members of the public in attendance raised concerns about the changes to routines for both students and parents, in addition to impacts on busing schedules.
After a substantial discussion, board member Guy Bourrie, of Washington, who had spoken against changing start times, made a motion to move the question, leading to a unanimous vote to keep the district’s start times the same.
The vote was met with a round of applause from the audience.
The discussion at the special meeting was the latest in a series of discussions on the topic of later start times.
A joint board meeting between area school districts was held at the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland in December 2016, followed by a community forum in Warren and further discussions at RSU 40 board meetings in March.
RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan said several school districts are discussing the possibility of later start times due to scientific data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Of all the information out there, the core recommendation from the CDC is schools should start after 8:30 a.m.,” Nolan said.
A press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites information from the American Academy of Pediatrics stating that early start times can leave students short on the sleep they need for health, safety, and academic success.
But Nolan said the board’s decision means start times will remain the same. He has notified neighboring districts of the board’s decision.
The superintendent said joint discussions with neighboring districts, such as the Camden-based Five Town CSD and Rockland-based RSU 13, were a result of each district’s participation in programming at the Mid-Coast School of Technology.
“We are trying to coordinate regionally, but each board acts as its own entity. We all send students to the Mid-Coast School of Technology and it’s important that schedules and start times are coordinated,” Nolan said.
Nolan said two considerations regarding start times for RSU 40 were having elementary school start before the district’s middle and high schools or delaying start times for all schools by an hour.
“These were discussed because they were low- or no-cost options,” Nolan said.
He said other ideas were to have all the district’s schools start at the same time or to have single bus runs pick up all students, but these were deemed unrealistic due to their cost implications and the need for more planning.
The surveys discussed during the March 30 meeting were filled out by students, family members, and staff.
Around 63 percent of students in grades four through 12 did not support starting school later. The number was 66 percent for family members and 74 percent for teachers.
During the meeting, parents and other members of the public expressed opposition to altering the schedule.
RSU 40 Facilities and Transportation Director George Bridges said that to accommodate different start times, the district would have to purchase up to eight school buses, creating an undue burden on the district’s budgetary process, as each bus costs approximately $86,000.