CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – School days for high school and middle school students will begin in September at 8:10 a.m., Katonah-Lewisboro School District administrators announced on March 7.
That reflects a 40-minute change for middle school students, who currently start their learning at 7:30 a.m. The new schedule will allow the students—between 11 and 13 years of age—to get more rest.
“In the end, our decision was driven primarily out of concern for adolescent mental health and wellness,” Superintendent Andrew Selesnick said in a letter to district parents. “Of course, a change in school start time alone is not going to solve what is a nation-wide challenge, but it is one step in a healthier direction.”
The change isn’t as severe for high school students, who will begin and end their days five minutes earlier. Elementary school start and dismissal times (9:15 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.) will remain unaffected.
The district chose this option over starting secondary schools at 8 a.m., which would have bumped up elementary school start times by 10 minutes.
Administrators heard from parents at five community meetings between Feb. 11 and 25. Many parents also attended the Jan. 17 Board of Education meeting, where this was first discussed publicly.
“My thanks also to the many members of our community who contributed their thoughts and questions,” Selesnick said. “The participation from our community was significant and the support for a later start time for our middle school was overwhelming.”
This decision was made by the Katonah-Lewisboro School District administration and was not subject to Board of Education approval.
What else will change?
With the new schedules, middle- and high-school students will now share buses.
The district is not expected to hire any new drivers but will incur an additional expense to upgrade some smaller vans to full-size buses.
Replacing old vans with new ones will cost the district about $354,000. But to replace them with new buses would cost $538,000. Selesnick likened this to a $184,000 expense needed to accommodate the schedule change.
Bus ride times will also be affected, some more than others. For the most part, Selesnick said at the Jan. 17 meeting, ride times will be the similar to what they are now, give or take five minutes.
The changes will also eliminate a so-called “zero period” that begins in the high school at 7:30. Created in 2015-16, zero period allows some students to take classes like physical education or health, providing more flexibility in their schedule later in the day.
After-school activities and athletics will also be affected. Currently, about 125 middle-school students who participate in after-school activities take the 3 p.m. high school buses home. They will not be able to do that under the new schedules.
However, late buses that drop off students at centralized locations will still leave the campus at 4:05/4:15 and 5:15.
Having the middle and high schools on the same class schedules will slightly alter athletic practice schedules as well. Currently, the separate dismissal times permit a staggered practice schedule. The new plan will likely delay some practices 30 or 45 minutes.