Some Loudoun Co. parents concerned by earlier elementary school start times, board member says

As some parents express lingering concerns about school start times, the school board in Loudoun County is expected to be briefed on the school division’s bell schedule next month.

School board member Lauren Shernoff has been seeking parents’ feedback on the impact a change in start times is having on their routines.

In 2022, the school district announced plans to have some elementary schools start at 7:30 a.m. and others start at 8 a.m. Some middle schools were slated to start at 8:30 a.m., and others at 8:50 a.m. Most high schools had their start times shifted 15 minutes later.

Some parents, Shernoff said, are expressing concerns about the earlier starts.

“Just saying, this is my day-to-day life, and it’s really a struggle. My kids are miserable. Getting up in the morning, they’re tired. They don’t want to eat breakfast, because it’s so early. It’s pitch black at the bus stop,” Shernoff said.

The change to an earlier start time, Shernoff said, was only done for about half of elementary schools in the county. So, different elementary schoolers in the school division have different schedules.

“Now you have an equity issue, where some schools are on a different schedule for the same-aged kid,” Shernoff said.

The changes were made, Shernoff said, because of the bus driver shortage that came in the aftermath of the pandemic. The county was also trying to minimize second loads, when a driver has to make several trips to and from a school to get all of the students home.

Students not getting enough sleep or not eating breakfast, she said, factor into other concerns.

“Are they tardy more? Are they not getting to school on time, which has also been a concern in Loudoun?” Shernoff said.

Most of the concerns are coming from elementary school families, Shernoff said, but some high school parents have expressed frustration that their school day ends after 4 p.m., making it harder for students to get jobs on top of school work.

The solution, she said, may be recruiting more bus drivers or having start times shift so that some schools aren’t always starting earlier than others.

School system leaders are expected to discuss bell schedules with the board at a meeting April 9.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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