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Staggered school start times in the works

By Kay S. Pedrotti A change in the times that Lamar County students report to school and leave in the afternoons is under consideration by the Lamar County Board of Education. At present, said superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson at last week’s board meeting, the hours around 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. create some safety issues for the students, bus operators and other drivers. The proposal to the board would make a 45-minute change in times, moving primary and elementary to 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and middle and high school to 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The move would save the board about $100,000 a year, he added. Each bus driver would pick up middle and high students on their routes, bring them to school and then return to the routes for primary and elementary students; the afternoons would see separate runs as well. This could free as many as five buses for use as replacements for buses under repair or for activities away from the schools, Wilson said. ’We have already gathered a lot of information from the principals, the school councils and others, but we encourage everyone who has concerns to let us know. We know there are valid concerns out there and we want to hear from you,’ the superintendent said. The change also would separate older students from younger children, another safety issue, Wilson noted. Another good reason, he added, for making the move is that student ‘instructional time’ would increase. Many high school students arrive at 7:30 a.m. or before now, he said, and are ‘just waiting.’ Then those who have activities or sports games after school leave before seventh period; the new times would allow at least another half-hour of class attendance. Many Georgia counties including several near Lamar are already using staggered schedules, Wilson said. The board does not anticipate any job losses for bus drivers, since the usual problem is ‘maintaining a full staff,’ he noted.

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