Battle High School “is a huge accomplishment,” Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said. “It is something for our community to be proud of.”
Though there was a consensus that the building and integration of BHS into the CPS high school system was something to take pride in, many issues remain regarding BHS that still need smoothing out, and the citizens of Columbia weren’t afraid to voice their concerns regarding these problems nor have they been timid over the past few weeks.
When the board opened the floor to public comments, Tim Rose, president of the Columbia Board of Education, first said, “To repeat the same things we’ve already heard over and over doesn’t necessarily get you anything … but of course we’re not here to limit anyone.”
The “same things we’ve heard over and over” that Rose was referring to are the public opinions regarding the proposed three-tier start time system for the 2013-2014 school year.
The CPS district currently abides by a two-tier system, where public schools are divided into elementary and secondary schools, and “elementary” encompasses kindergarten through 5th grade, while “secondary” encompasses 6th through 12th grade.
However, with the addition of BHS and the two new elementary schools “hopefully by 2015,” Christine King, vice president of the Columbia Board of Education, believes the two-tier system will become increasingly ineffective, especially in regards to transportation.
“If CPS moves forward in our current system,” King said, “we’re set up for failure … it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s why we’re ready to move to the three-tiered system.”
The three-tier system divides public schools into elementary, intermediate and secondary schools, where “elementary” encompasses kindergarten through fifth grade, “intermediate” encompasses sixth through eighth grade, and “secondary” encompasses ninth through 12th grade.
Though the three-tier system has widespread support, what people are taking issue with is the logistics of the three-tier system, especially the logistics of the starting and ending times for each tier. The public backlash began when the Board of Education suggested that the high schools start at 7:20 a.m., with the middle schools and elementary schools following later.
Although Rose suggested the constituents refrain from making public comments regarding the issue of the new starting times if the points had already been made, those present did not heed his request. Instead, they came to the podium one by one to speak their views on school starting times.
About 20 high school students were present to advocate their view: high school should not start as early as 7:20 a.m. Many were members of the group created by RBHS sophomore Jilly Dos Santos called Students’ Say, a group currently encouraging students to speak out against the proposed starting times. Hickman High School junior Eli Bryerly-Duke summarized the high school student standpoint concisely, even eliciting laughs from those listening.
“At 7:20, even for people who are dedicated, which I like to think I am, I will not be able to function … I will not be awake … I will not be there,” Bryerly-Duke said. “Please do not make me take Calculus 3 at 7:20 in the morning.”
Other interest groups were present, such as elementary teachers, principals and parents. Some were in favor of the earlier start times, and some were opposed. The issues brought up included the potentially negative and positive impacts of earlier starting times on academic performance, transportation, money, sleep and extracurricular activities.
After everybody who wished to had made a public comment, a few more topics were covered and then the Board itself discussed the logistics of the three-tier system. They threw around many of the same issues and doubts brought up by the members of the audience, and although they were unsure as to what the right solution would be, they were clear on one thing.
“The thing to keep in mind is that we are never going to get 100 percent of peoples’ support,” King said. “No matter what we decide, there’ll be 30 to 40 percent of the people who are unhappy … there is no perfect answer … we’ll do the best we can with everything there is to consider.”
By Urmila Kutikkad
Here Students’ Say talk about their views:
Listen to school board members talk about the proposal:
This is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.
What do you think the best solution is? Do you think people should be making such a big deal out of school starting times?