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Ohio County Schools Looks at Later Start Times

Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Board of Education member Molly Aderholt addresses the board Tuesday night about starting the school day at Wheeling Park High School an hour earlier each day, and adjusting bus routes and start times at other schools in the district to coordinate.

WHEELING — Ohio County Schools operates 31 regular school buses each day, and 56 buses — another 25 more — would be needed to coordinate later start times at Wheeling Park School and transportation needs for all schools, according to Director of Operations David Crumm.

Board of Education members discussed later school start times, hiring a grant writer, appointing student representatives to the board and implementation of a superintendent review process during a work session Tuesday night at the board office.

Board member Molly Aderholt has been championing the need for starting classes an hour later at Wheeling Park High School, where classes currently begin at 7:20 a.m. each day.

“The thinking behind it is there is research out there indicating that adolescents — those in grades 6-12 — are significantly impacted in a beneficial way by later start times for school,” she said.

Science shows the students and their circadian rhythms are more engaged when they start school after the sun has risen, and test scores overall have improved in school districts that have chosen to allow classes to start later, Aderholt said.

She acknowledged, however, bus and transportation efficiencies would need to be worked out across Ohio County Schools before any changes could occur.

Board president David Croft said no one on the board would dispute there are benefits to starting the school day later.

“But there are practical challenges relating to the compressed timing of the delivery of students, and the ability to do that with our existing buses and bus drivers,” he said.

The school district’s new bus transportation software should provide an idea of costs, according to Croft.

“There is nobody in the room who wouldn’t agree this would be a great idea,” Superintendent Kim Miller said. “But we’ve come up with a list of obstacles we need to work through.”

Crumm then presented information to the board showing that 31 traditional buses currently make bus runs each day. But Edulog, the provider of the new transportation software, is suggesting as many as 56 buses would be needed to get students to school each day.

Each additional school bus would cost $110,000, though the school district would be reimbursed for any upfront expense over a 12 l-year period, he said.

There also would be a need to hire additional drivers for any additional buses, according to Crumm. It is difficult to find and hire qualified bus drivers, he noted, and each driver would cost the district at least $32,000 annually.

There would also be a need to hire at least two additional mechanics at the bus garage, and to construct at least one more work bay there.

Additional parking areas also would be needed for both the additional buses and employees, Crumm explained.

Board members moved on to discuss the idea of establishing a student representative position on the board. They agreed this student would not have a vote on issues, but would update the board on student concerns and happenings in the school.

Board members expressed thoughts on appointing a student for a one-year term, or rotating them throughout the year.

“I love the idea but it’s about figuring out who it will be, and who they can be on the board,” Croft said.

On the topic of hiring a grant writer for the school district, board members seemed to think an existing employee or employees should attend grant writing seminars taking place regionally.

“I’m not opposed to the concept of a grant writer, but I’m not in favor of hiring any additional staff,” Miller said.

The board is next scheduled to meet in regular session at 6 p.m. Monday, and is expected to consider a policy for superintendent evaluation.

The West Virginia Department of Education is requiring the adoption of such policies by county boards of education, and has provided guidelines to help them craft their policy, Croft explained. The policies have to be approved and submitted to the DOE by the end of 2021.

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