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Ohio County BOE Looking at Later Start Time at WPHS

Ohio County Board of Education President Zach Abraham, left, Superintendent Kim Miller and Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones share a moment during Wednesday’s work sessions.

WHEELING – Ohio County Schools is considering the pros and cons of starting school later at Wheeling Park High School.

The issue was addressed during a board of education work session Wednesday morning, though before any change is made a lot more discussion must take place, according to Superintendent Kim Miller.

First period currently starts at 7:25 a.m. each school day at WPHS.

“We have to look at what kind of impact would this have? How do we prepare as a board if we wanted to alter those times?” Superintendent Kim Miller asked board members.

Transportation schedules would have to change, and this would either mean the purchase of additional buses or placing younger elementary school children on the same bus with high school students, she said.

Ohio County Schools currently operates 51 buses, with 11 being spares, according to Miller. These buses make 32 runs each day, including 11 special education runs.

There are 32 drivers, and an additional 15 substitute drivers. Finding bus drivers to hire is a challenge, and many of the substitutes are over retirement age, she said.

“In order to change start times, we would have to collapse (eliminate) some runs, and I think that’s a huge consideration for the board. We would have 18-year-olds possibly on a bus with a 6-year-old,” she said. “We are trying to work out all the things that could go wrong before we bring it up to the board.”

Among the advantages to a later start is that students likely would be more attentive at school, according to Miller.

“The research states adolescent children need more sleep, and this would allow them to be more responsive in the classroom, and not as tired,” she said. “There would also be an increase in attendance.”

More data is being collected, and Miller said she would inform the board of the costs of purchasing any additional buses that might be needed.

Board member Sarah Koegler asked if any students had been asked what affect going to classes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day might have on their activities and jobs after school.

Miller said she could conduct a student forum there to find out their thoughts.

WPHS athletes often don’t arrive back at the school following an away event until 11:30 p.m. or midnight, board member Molly Aderholt said.

“Then they have to be back at school by 7:25 a.m.,” she said. “I know students are thinking about this.”

Koegler said a decision on school start times would have to be made soon if a change is to happen in time to plan it for the 2020-21 school year.

Board president Zach Abraham suggested the board act on the matter before January.

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