NICEVILLE – Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said she will not recommend the school board vote to change school start times in Okaloosa County. 

Jackson said her decision was made Tuesday after finding no research to support improvements in academic success linked with a change in start times.

"The data is clear," Jackson said. 

On Monday, district staffers presented a summary of scenarios, research and budget costs to both school board members and Jackson.

The research, compiled by a School Start Times Committee that was formed in early February, included scenarios expected to cost the school district millions. In addition, the district staffers presented information they acquired from attending a conference on later school start times. 

"The decision is not based on buses or budgets," said Henry Kelley, the school district's program director of community affairs. "It's based on student academic outcomes. When we looked at our data, our middle school data contradicts this point."

Not all were in agreement with the superintendent at Monday's meeting. Kendall Mullenhour, a college engineering student in support of the change, said he formulated his own start times scenario that had not been considered.  

"I believe there is a more efficient proposal that will not require adding dozens of buses and costing millions of dollars to implement," Mullenhour said. "An effective later school start times solution would be to have a three-tier system for south and central zones.

"The benefit to this set up would be that it wouldn't require additional buses," he continued. "Maybe one or two more, but not dozens of additional buses."

Board member Dewey Destin suggested the vote be delayed until transportation staff could sit with Mullenhour and other proponents for a change in start times to consider the option. District staffers plan to schedule a meeting, according to Kelley. 

"If we can't come up with a plan that is affordable, then it's dead in the water," Destin said. "I'd like to see the district staff go over that proposal and see if that will work at all."

A vote on later school start times has not yet been scheduled.