NICEVILLE — Okaloosa County School District staffers presented research at a meeting concerning school start times Wednesday as the committee studying the issue prepares to present options to Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.
Research and common sense verses practicality and application were addressed during a PowerPoint presentation on transportation, student health, extra-curricular activities, academics and attendance.
"The presenters were able to provide the committee with a look at all the variables that we, the district staff, are considering," said Henry Kelley, director of the school district's Office of Community Affairs.
The School Start Times Committee was formed in February after research from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that middle school and high school students should start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The research shows that by allowing students to sleep in, they perform better academically and avoid risk such as drug use, car accidents and depression.
According to Marcus Chambers, assistant superintendent of curriculum, Okaloosa County is one of only three districts in the Florida Panhandle to have school start times before 8:30 a.m. After Chambers' presentation, committee members requested more research to get a better sense of how other districts operate.
"We spoke with Santa Rosa County, and they simply swapped elementary and high school start times," Kelley said. "The superintendent said that she doesn't want our elementary children out in the dark, so we're going to try and find districts who meet those parameters before the next meeting."
Andy Johnson, a specialist for Safe Schools, Athletics and Health, said even with early start times Okaloosa is rated best in state for low student battery, crime, physical attacks, sexual offenses, tobacco use, weapon possession, vandalism, vehicle accidents and several others.
On April 11, district staffers will present the potential costs of start time scenarios and answer questions raised at Wednesday's meeting. The committee will give input to Jackson, who will then present options to the School Board for a final decision in May.