HISD proposes changing school hours

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - A Houston Independent School District's plan to save money may have an impact on families' morning routine.

The district's chief operating officer wants to adjust the start and stop times of every school in the district. They said adding an average of 19 minutes to a child's school day will help the district save more than a million dollars in transportation costs.

There are 279 schools in HISD with more than 20 different start and end times. The district said if they can streamline when the morning and afternoon bells ring, they can re-work bus schedules and save money on fuel and bus routes.

Under the most recent proposal to cut costs, half of all elementary schools would start at 7:30 a.m. The other half would start at 8:30 a.m. All middle schools would start at 7:45 a.m. and high school students would be on campus from 8:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

"Not only would we save $1.2 million next year, but we'd also be able to add 19 minutes of class time per day to the average school," HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said.

The plan may sound familiar. HISD tried to pass a similar plan last June. Parents didn't like it and the board voted it down.

Officials said this proposal is different. Last year's proposal would have had high school kids starting classes earlier. Parents argued that real studies show teenagers don't learn as well first thing in the morning. The new plan has high school students starting later, but parents with students who don't ride the bus said it doesn't help them with their daily juggling act.

"I have four kids," explained Leslie Edmonds. "One is in Sharpstown and three are (at another school), so that means they would have to get up extra early for me to take her to school and drop them off."

"We've got really tough decisions to make," said Spencer.

HISD is facing a budget shortfall of more than $30 million next year. Officials said streamlining bus routes will be the first of many plans to cut costs. 

The district said it wants to hear from parents to get their input. It plans to host nine community meetings and ask parents to take a survey on the district's website. Officials hope to have something ready for the board to vote on in May.

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