Unanimous school board vote sets precedent for future decisions

The Central York School Board voted unanimously to keep the current school start times, making a decision on what became a hotly-debated issue.

Clayton Brosend, Staff Writer

Jan. 27 marked the date when the Central York School Board made a unanimous decision to pass a resolution to keep the current school start time schedule. For most of the current academic year, talks have been taking place about a proposal to change the high school start time, to be effective in the 2020-2021 school year.

The initial proposal to change school start times came at the recommendation of the Joint State Government Commission, assigned with investigating the results of later school start times at secondary schools. The research conducted by the district concluded that “school districts could increase student safety and boost adolescent academic success by instituting later start times for middle and high school students.” The district also recognized the potential issue in implementing such a policy with considerations such as financial restraints, after-school activities and family schedules.

In terms of implementing the school start time change, the district considered two different options: to push back start times or to flip elementary and secondary start times. The former would have pushed all schedules back 30 minutes, meaning that the high school day would start at 8:15 a.m. rather than 7:45 a.m. The latter proposal would have flipped the current elementary school and high school start times. This would mean that the high school student day would run from 8:55 a.m. to 3:56 p.m.

Members of the district greeted the proposal with mixed opinions. Some members described being convinced to follow through with the proposed change based on the figures. School board member Veronica Gemma spoke out against the proposed change and urged the school board to consider the negative response from the community with regard to the proposal. 

She believes that this decision will “set a precedent that our desire as a board is to communicate and connect with the community on a deeper level.” 

Board Member Jodi Grothe voiced her appreciation for the special community meeting that the board held on the subject prior to the vote. According to Grothe, “In order for me to make a fair vote, I need to hear from all sides.” 

Grothe voiced concern over what she describes to be poor attendance at meetings, saying “I wish we would have heard from students at [the community] meeting.” She believes that student, faculty, parent and community engagement with the board is imperative.

Members of the community voiced their thoughts on the decision on a Facebook page for the school district parents. Some parents voiced concerns over what they described to be a lack of research on the effects that the change would have on younger children. Other parents described their disappointment with what they saw to be a lack of community feedback on a poll that was sent out by the school district. One parent commented on how she has, “found [the] board to be very receptive to any and all concerns.” 

Board member Gregory Lewis suggested that a similar proposal may see its day in the future but, until then, says that the board is “dead set against it. [They] made a conscious decision not to go through with it”. 

Lewis reiterated Gemma’s point, saying, “This [was] a pretty straightforward decision we got to make this time, but there will be more difficult ones.”

School board Treasurer Vickie Guth closed the meeting by reminding her fellow members of their responsibility to listen to those they represent. 

According to Guth, “our job is to get all the facts, present them, find out what they want to do. Our job is to represent the community.”