Task force works to change CMS bell schedule

by: Paige Hansen Updated:


CHARLOTTE - Channel 9 is getting a first look at proposals the parent-run School Time Task Force will present to Charlotte-Mecklenburg school leaders Tuesday. One of the recommendations includes a later start time for high school students.

The task force says it planned to make that recommendation even before the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study about the benefits of a later start time last week.

Susan Plaza is a former CMS teacher and mom to three young CMS students.

Since 2011 she's been working to change the districts' bell schedules, which were initially changed to save transportation money.

"We're hoping to change start times for every student in CMS to a more beneficial, biologically developmentally sound time for everybody," Plaza said. 

That includes pushing for later start times for high school students. Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended "middle and high school students delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later."

Right now, 22 CMS high schools start at 7:15 each morning, according to the CMS 2014-2015 bell schedule. 

The AAP says teens' natural sleep cycles make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and an early start time means they're not getting enough sleep, which the AAP says contributes to "Physical and mental health problems."  

"I think we can do more for them than we're doing," Plaza said. 

Based on this survey last year, 25 percent of CMS parents and 51 percent of CMS staff responded, Plaza said the task force has three goals: Move high schools to a later start time, give elementary school teachers back some of their planning time and eliminate the 4:15 dismissal time.

Plaza says any changes would cost the district because more buses may be required. Her group is looking at ways to eliminate extra cost, especially in transportation.

The task force will present its proposals to district leaders, including Superintendent Heath Morrison, Tuesday morning. Morrison told Channel 9 last week, later start times for high schoolers is something he'd consider. The task force says its goal is to implement the new schedules for the 2015-2016 school year.