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83 Clark County high schools likely to see later start times with new school board proposal

School busses
Posted at 8:31 AM, Oct 05, 2023

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Approximately 83 schools in Clark County may see later start times if a Nevada Board of Education proposal is approved.

The proposal, which was addressed in a Wednesday board meeting, would require all high schools within the state that currently start before 8 a.m. to provide "alternative options" to families and students due to "negative impacts on student health and well-being."

The proposed change would be implemented by the start of the 2025-26 school year.

"I would go for that," said Rafael Ramos, a student at Clark High School, when asked if he'd like a later school start time. "I wish school could start later so I could get more time to sleep."

During the public comment period of the meeting, many school district officials came forward to testify against later start times.

Andrew Feuling, the Carson County School District superintendent, pointed to how many operational constraints are tied to school start times, including the length of the school day, students' access to extracurriculars, and collective bargaining agreements with unions.

"Mandated changes to school start times will lead to inefficiencies that will negatively impact students," he said. "Moreover, altering school start times has a significant ripple effect on the entire community, interrupting morning routines for students and parents, equitable access to before and after-school programming, student safety during travel, and student's ability to participate in after-school employment."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: CCSD discusses options for modifying school start times

Clark County School District Police Lt. Bryan Zink testified on the way school start times impact students' safety while walking to and from school.

"From 2017 to 2021, there have been 22 reported deaths on Clark County roadways. Of those tragic incidents, 77% happened between dusk and dawn. Twenty of those were pedestrians killed under the age of 21, and of those, 13 of those were juveniles under the age of 16," said Lt. Zink, citing traffic incident information from the Nevada Department of Transportation.

He continued, "Prevention is key. Having more students walking around closer to dusk may potentially increase incidents on the roadways."

CCSDPD Traffic Sgt. Michael Campbell added that CCSD has seen 30 reported incidents of students being struck by vehicles while walking to and from school so far during the 2023-24 school year.

Other points of contention during the meeting included how the start times would impact food-insecure students who rely on free and reduced meal programs. Questions also arose about how the push would impact transportation services for students and working parents who rely on childcare services.

When compared to other school districts in the country that have pushed start times, many have opted for a 3-year implementation timeline. Officials pointed out that the board's request to implement this by 2025 leaves less than half of the recommended transition time.

CCSD Chief Operating Officer Mike Casey summed up these points during the meeting, saying, "We understand the intent is to improve academic performance for a specific student group. However, the reality is that a change could be a detriment to the broader student populations, food-insecure families, and the community at large."

Channel 13 spoke with one Las Vegas parent who says, in spite of the challenges brought up during Wednesday's meeting, she's in favor of these changes.

"We have to start putting children's educational needs before adult problems," said Karri Humenski. "If a parent is struggling with getting off of work at different times, they gotta solve those problems as grown-ups. Nevada is last in education, and if changes aren't made, we're constantly going to be last in education."

The measure's current language was approved by the board, with only one abstention among voting members, though the board highlighted multiple caveats still needed. One of these includes the development of a waiver program that would allow schools to apply for exemption from the early start times. Schools would have until November 15 to submit waivers to be considered for the upcoming school year.

The board also highlighted the need for continuous surveys across multiple districts to get more input from parents on the issues and feedback on the transition.

"Some of our lowest-performing schools and schools with crawling absenteeism rates are schools that start after 8 a.m.," said board member Tate Else. "I think we need to be making decisions with more data information in mind."

Thursday afternoon, the Clark County School District issued this statement "setting the record straight" on its position on the Board of Education measure. The district called the board's proposal an act of "overreach" and questioned whether it has the power to alter school start times.

In the release, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said there's "overwhelming statewide opposition" to changing start times.

"The Clark County School District continues to express concerns about the Nevada State Board of Education’s discussions surrounding proposed changes to school start times.

As CCSD and other school districts have testified multiple times, state law does not give the Nevada State Board of Education the statutory authority to set school start times. CCSD remains hopeful that the Legislative Counsel Bureau and other state authorities will serve as the appropriate check and balance to inform the Board of Education of its overreach.

While Board of Education members have claimed overwhelming support for the change, they ignored the opposition from educational leaders at their meetings, including the 28-1 opposition to the regulation at the October 4, 2023 meeting. Three prior workshops with less than 20 attendees are insufficient participation for any regulation to proceed.

“Overwhelming statewide opposition to changing start times should be sufficient for the State Board of Education to reconsider its position,” said Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara. “Unfunded mandates, safety risks, student schedule disruption, impacts to families, staffing challenges, and lack of legal authority are being ignored as the Board moves this unpopular proposal forward.”

Additionally, on September 28, the CCSD Board of School Trustees heard overwhelming opposition from the community on the potential changes necessary to accommodate a regulation regarding school start times."