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Parents, teachers against staggered school proposal

Many parents, teachers and community members voiced their opposition to a new staggered school start time proposal.

Scott Denton, consultant for School Efficiency Consultants, presented the details of the start time proposal Wednesday night at Stanly Commons. He was hired in November by Stanly County Schools to help the district use resources more efficiently and effectively.

The main objectives for SCS in looking into staggered start times is to ensure safe and on time transportation, improve transportation efficiency and address significant bus driver shortages, Denton said.

There are currently nine vacancies in bus driving positions, said SCS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Student Services Vicki Calvert. Many teacher assistants are pulled away from instructional time because they have to drive buses in the afternoon, she said.

If the staggered start time proposal goes into effect, the school system could cut 20 buses and its transportation budget rating would increase, which would save around $260,000 that normally comes out of the local budget, Denton said.

The staggered bell times would affect no high schools and only elementary schools and one middle school.

The plan would be to have Norwood, Badin, East Albemarle, Endy and Locust elementary schools start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:25 p.m. Aquadale, Richfield, Central, Millingport and Stanfield would start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m. Oakboro Choice STEM would not be affected.

Albemarle Middle School would start school at 8:50 a.m. and finish at 3:55 p.m.

The biggest positives of the multi-tiered busing schedule would be it would reduce or eliminate driver bus shortage and the transportation budget rating would increase to near 100 percent (from its current 89 percent), Denton said.

If the proposal passes, then bus drivers will be full-time and they will receive health insurance, which will be about $500 a month for each driver, Denton said.

But many parents, teachers and members of the community took issue with the plan.

Melissa Zaleski, owner of Melissa Kathleen’s School of Dance in Albemarle, and said the proposal would be “extremely detrimental” to her business because the changing school times would “delay my dance start times by at least an hour and a half,” causing students to get home late. She said other after-school activities like music lessons, gymnastics and sports would be similarly affected.

Anna Lowder, a teacher at Mount Pleasant High School, has three students in Stanly County. She proposed SCS follow the format set by Cabarrus County Schools and have the same start times for the elementary schools, and then the middle schools and the high schools.

Cabarrus County elementary schools run from 7:45 a.m. until 3 p.m., middle schools run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and high schools from 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Lowder’s idea received applause from the public.

Several Albemarle Middle School teachers said it was not “equitable” that Albemarle would be the only middle school affected by the staggered start times.

“If it’s going to be one middle school it needs to be all middle schools,” said Penny Morton, Albemarle Middle School curriculum coach and AIG specialist. “Attracting teachers is a very difficult problem for AMS…so our school needs to have some perks and being the only middle school on another schedule is definitely not a perk.”

Albemarle Middle teachers expressed doubt about being able to compete in sports against other middle schools because the coaches could not leave before the 4 p.m. dismissal.

“We may not be able to offer sports that students at other middle schools are able to participate in,” AMS teacher Angela Almond said.

AMS teacher Kathryn Patterson said “it breaks my heart that I’m going to have to leave the school to pay for daycare” if the proposal goes into effect. Her children go to Badin Elementary and a friend usually picks them up and drops them off at the middle school, but that option would not work under the new proposal.

Tamara Honeycutt, who works for Cabarrus County Schools as a substitute bus driver and has children at SCS, said unless SCS bus drivers get paid more, they will go to work in other school districts.

Ginger Whitley, a mother of three students, was worried about sleep deprivation for high school students. She said that because so many high school students are not getting enough sleep every night, “I’m thinking that the high schoolers should be starting later so they can get the sleep.”

A meeting will be conducted with the school board at 6 p.m. Wednesday to provide it with a summary of the findings and recommendations from this week’s public meetings.

For anyone who missed these meetings, videos of both will be broadcast on YouTube.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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