SOUTH BEND — South Bend Community School Corp.’s administration doesn’t have a solid enough plan for implementing later start times at intermediate schools and high schools to bring it to the board for approval yet.
But, Superintendent Carole Schmidt and two enFocus Inc. fellows working on it, say it’ll come in May.
The main sticking point is transportation.
“There are viable options, but not optimal options,” said Patrick Jones, a fellow from the enFocus program that was created in 2012 to connect recent college graduates with projects at local organizations.
He, along with Kathleen Ryan, client portfolio manager for enFocus, said inefficiencies in the transportation department should be addressed before complicating matters with changes.
For one, they said, only 58 percent of students who are on bus routes across the district actually ride buses.
Others apparently are being driven by their parents or drive themselves.
Board member John Anella asked, “Are we running buses we don’t need to be running since we have 6,000 missing kids?”
The fellows said more work needs to be done before that question can be answered.
The plan for later start times for high school and intermediate center students also will extend the school day for primary center students by 40 minutes. School officials here, along with national researchers, say a later start time — such as 9 a.m. — for older students can reduce tardiness and improve academic achievement.
Months ago, the district conducted a telephone survey of parents about later start times. The administration has said about 60 percent of those responding favored the change. And, no parents have spoken in opposition to the move at school board meetings.
However, more parent input will be sought before a plan is brought to the board this spring, officials said.
Experts say teen brains are wired for sleep in a way that’s different from the brains of adults and children. The sleep hormone melatonin isn’t released in their brains until after 11 p.m. That means, regardless of when they have to get up in the morning, they’re generally unable to fall asleep until later.
Anella said he’s done a lot of research on later start times for adolescents and although only 15 percent of schools across the country take part, the benefits are many.
“Attendance goes up,” he said, “crime rates go down, teen pregnancy rates go down. I’ve had a lot of input from parents, students and teachers,” he said, “who say ‘get it done.’ Get it done … keep working at it, I’d like to come back here in May and vote for it.”