Junior High bus schedule to change?

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Junior high students in Pickerington may sleep-in an hour if a proposed schedule change comes to fruition.

Instead of being on the same bus cycle as the high school, junior high students would be on the same schedule as the middle school.  

Junior high currently runs from 7:20 a.m. to 1:57 p.m. and the middle school runs from 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

The reason for possibly changing the junior high bell schedule is for "future cost avoidance," Pickerington school board member Lisa Reade said.

Currently the buses run on three separate loops. The first loop includes grades 7-12. The second loop includes the two middle schools. The last loop is for kindergarten through grade four.

Under the new proposal, instead of six grades on the first loop followed by two grades on the second loop, both loops would transport four grades at a time.

"We will have room on the buses for additional kids because we aren’t transporting six grades at a time.  Eventually we would have to add buses but not as soon as the current transportation model," Reade said.

The secondary benefit for changing the junior high bell schedule is to enable students to receive more sleep.

During the teenage years, a person’s internal clock shifts to a later sleep pattern than those of adults or young children.  Although teenagers need around nine hours of sleep a night, their bodies tell them bedtime should be midnight or later, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The shift in sleeping patterns occurs at a time when children become very active.  In addition to school, teenagers have busy social lives, participate in extracurricular activities and tackle several hours of homework.

The resulting sleep deprivation leads to lack of concentration and sometimes depression.

Pickerington has one of the earliest bell schedules of any local school district.  Some Ridgeview Junior High students awaken around 5 a.m. to catch the bus at 6:03 a.m., Reade said.

Tardiness and absence are the leading disciplinary problems facing Pickerington schools.

"Educationally, (if the junior high began later) first period would be more productive as kids would be more awake," Reade said.  "It’s hard to get kids to bed much earlier than 9 p.m. at that age. Making school later will give them a little more sleep. Studies have shown that breakfast is really important. The start times are so early that many kids get to school without eating breakfast. Going to the bus stop at 6 a.m. is darker than going at 7 a.m., so we could improve safety. Many parents that work don’t provide childcare for their seventh and eight-graders. Getting dismissed at 3 p.m. versus 2 p.m. allows for less unsupervised time at home for our students of working parents. (In addition, students would experience) shorter bus routes.  Some routes are almost one hour."

The district and the bus contractor, Petermann Transportation, will be studying all grades to consider the possible schedule changes, Reade said.

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