The Bibb County school district wants the public's opinion on a new bell schedule for the 2016-17 school year, and the proposed options hold major changes for middle school students.
Under one scenario, elementary school students would go to school from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., middle-schoolers would go from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and high school students would go from 7:20 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.
That would be just a 10-minute shift from this year for the high-schoolers, but elementary school students would be going to school 35 minutes earlier, while middle school students would have their day shift by more than an hour from the current schedule.
A second option presented would be a big change for all three levels. Elementary school students would attend from 7:40 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., middle school students would go from 9:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m., and high schoolers would go from 8:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
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Keith Simmons, the district's chief of staff, said the plan is to choose one of those two options once officials gather community feedback.
"Right now our effort is to try and establish some degree of certainty with one of these two," he said.
The main purpose of the change is to better manage the resources available, particularly the number of buses and bus drivers. Due to those numbers, Simmons said, having all the start times within an hour of each other doesn't always give bus drivers enough time to get students dropped off and get back out for the next round of students.
"We did not want to contend with students arriving to school late," Simmons said, noting that the same issue left students on campus far later than intended after school.
Even though the middle school day would experience a significant shift, Simmons said he wasn't concerned that would negatively affect after-school activities such as sports and performance groups. Most of the other other large school districts that Bibb officials studied across the state had similar schedules to those proposed for Bibb's middle grades.
"Most middle schools get out anywhere between 4 and 4:30, and they're still able to do sports and such," Simmons said.
Amy Martin, an employee of Middle Georgia State University, has a son, Connor, in the third grade at Alexander II Magnet School. She said earlier start times wouldn't present much of an issue for her because Connor is already in before-school care starting at 7 a.m.
The other end of the school day could cause a hitch, though, particularly in the second scenario that would have elementary school students getting out of school 45 minutes earlier. Her husband, Andy, works at Robins Air Force Base and picks up Connor in the afternoons.
"That would present a problem because he already struggles to get to the school from Alex II in time as it is," she said.
A survey with the two options will be available for input from employees, parents, students and other community members until March 11 through the district's website at www.bcsdk12.net.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter @MTJTimm.