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Parkway Board approves new school start/end times for 2011-12

At its March 2 meeting, the Parkway Board of Education unanimously approved new start/end times for all schools beginning with the 2011-12 school year. The board also voted to increase the length of the elementary school day by 20 minutes. 

The decisions were prompted by the work of the Project Parkway strategic planning effort. The two primary goals were to provide a later starting time for middle school students and to add time to the elementary day so that it is equal to the middle and high schools. The moves are part of a series of changes intended to support Parkway’s new mission, vision and long-range plan. Last month, the school board voted to offer tuition-free, full-day kindergarten for all students beginning this fall.

New Start/End Times

Tier 1: High Schools
7:45 a.m. – 2:40 p.m.

Tier 2: Middle Schools
8:15 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.

Tier 3: Elementary Schools
8:55 a.m. – 3:50 p.m.

(Four elementary schools will be on Tier 1 and one will be on Tier 2.)

“These changes are long overdue,” said Superintendent Don Senti. “Our middle school start time was simply too early, and our elementary day was too short. This new schedule makes sense for kids and it’s more efficient, too. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.”

Length of Elementary School Day

  • Currently, Parkway’s elementary school day is 6 hours, 35 minutes long which is 20 minutes shorter than Parkway’s middle and high schools and one of the shortest in St. Louis County.
  • Elementary teachers have expressed concern over their ability to effectively teach the curriculum in the current format. An additional 20 minutes of instructional time per day equals nearly 10 days of instruction over the course of the school year.
  • Establishing a district-wide standard 6 hour and 55 minute school day will create a more equitable delivery of classroom instruction K-12. Plus it will allow for a more efficient busing schedule by reducing the number of different school starting times from seven to three.

Starting/Ending Times

  • Currently, Parkway middle schools begin at approximately 7:25 a.m., followed by high schools at 8 a.m. and most elementary schools between 8:25 a.m. and 9 a.m. Parents and teachers have consistently expressed concern that a 7:25 a.m. start time is too early, particularly for middle school-aged students.
  • A Project Parkway task force studied school start/end times and analyzed research regarding sleep patterns in children and adolescents. The task force findings validated concerns about the early middle school start times. They concluded that start times of 8 a.m. or later are generally preferable and that a later start time would be beneficial for young adolescents in terms of their overall health and opportunity to be successful in school. They found little conclusive data on the effect of early versus later school start times for elementary students.

Benefits of the New Schedule

  • Enables all schools to have equal instructional days at 6 hours, 55 minutes.
  • Enables middle schools to start almost an hour later without significantly changing most other starting times. Of the remaining 23 schools, 18 will change by 15 minutes or less. The remaining five schools will change from between 20 to 50 minutes.
  • Provides a reasonable start time for high schools while allowing appropriate time for students to get to extracurricular activities.
  • Allows for a more efficient transportation system.
  • Provides a start/end schedule that is more consistent with neighboring districts at the elementary and high school levels.
  • Provides a later middle school start time than the majority of neighboring districts.

School Board President Bruce Major expressed thanks to the Project Parkway volunteers for spearheading the initiative. “I’m grateful that through Project Parkway we’ve finally been able to put together a proposal that accomplishes what we know is right for our students,” said Major. “We have more work to do, and I encourage others to get involved in the work of Project Parkway in the months and years ahead.”

Go to http://www.pkwy.k12.mo.us/news/schoolTimes.cfm for more information including a school-by-school breakdown of the new start/end times and a comparison of neighboring school districts.