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Staggered start times for schools talk postponed

Knox County School Board opted to postpone a recommendation made by interim Knox County Schools superintendent Roy Mullins to stagger start times for some middle and high schools in an effort to reduce transportation costs, during a meeting held Monday, June 16


The recommendation would have Farragut Middle, Farragut High and Bearden High schools, as well as several others throughout the system, beginning the school day at 9:30 a.m., and ending at 4:30 p.m.

Before the idea was brought to the Board for discussion, some local media outlets reported it as an idea under consideration, prompting heated discussions on several online blogs.

Prior to the June 16 meeting, Karen Carson, 5th District representative and Board chair, said, “I think it is one of many ideas that we are looking at to help find the money in this budget shortfall that we are dealing with.

“My thoughts are there is no way we can do it this year. I can’t support changing something without the preparation time for it. If it is something we have to consider, I think it absolutely needs community input.

“If we ever have to do staggered times I hope it is for something beside budget reasons. I would hope that if we ever do staggered times for budget reasons there is going to be some positive academic gain. [Such as] at the high school level, maybe those who could get transportation on their own could take a fifth block if they wanted to, or come early and get out early so they could go to work,” she added.

Parents showed up en masse to the meeting to express concerns to the Board but, according to Thomas Deakins, 6th District Board representative, Board members had their own reservations.

“It was just a recommendation from the superintendent and we all made it pretty clear we were not ready for that,” he said.

“That [recommendation] was from Mr. Mullins, and the one thing I do applaud them for doing is thinking outside the box to help us save money.

“Not every idea is always going to be something that makes sense, but at least we are looking at ways to save money. And it would have saved about $640,000, but you don’t implement something that drastic in less than two months before school starts,” he added.

Pamela Treacy, local community activist, who has two children who would be affected if this recommendation comes up again next year, said, “I found that the whole issue was very personal in nature. Either you really like the idea or you didn’t like the idea.

“Some people will talk about this is better for kids because of the sleep patterns for teenagers, which is kind of a controversial issue right now.”

On one local blog site devoted to KCS news, Carson allegedly said: “I think the concerns expressed here are helpful in evaluating a change in school start times to meet increased fuel/transportation costs.

“Basically, for the Board, all brainstorming must be done in a public forum, which means you hear some good ideas, some bad ones, some creative [and] some ridiculous.

“It is the only way to explore all options.

“Please help us to know why some of these things will and/or will not work. Help us to remove the roadblocks that prevent us from doing things differently than the way they have always been done. Give some alternative ideas. Work with us and I promise that I will do all I can to work with you,” she added.

KCSB will have to approve its budget in July.

Deakins said, “Last year was an easy budget but this year it has been a convoluted process to say the least. And I am hoping that next year we start the budgets a little earlier.”


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