Heads Up! Earlier Start Time For Next Year!
Heads Up! Earlier Start Time For Next Year!

The Portland Board of Public Education voted on Tuesday, March 31 to make some changes in school start and end times to accommodate 20 more minutes of student learning time that will be added to each school day, beginning this fall. The board also voted to recommend a $102,776,657 FY2016 school budget to the City Council.

The schedule changes for the 2015-2016 school year do not include a later start time for students at Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools. Those students will continue to start school at 8 a.m., as they do now, but their school day will now finish at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:10 p.m. Times for the Portland Art and Technology High School (PATHS) will remain the same as they are now, running from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The School Board wanted to have high school students begin their day later because research shows students who get more sleep perform better in school. However, the later start would have meant a later dismissal time and parents and students raised concerns on Tuesday and over the past several weeks that such a late ending time would create a conflict for student playing sports, attending after-school clubs, holding jobs and – if they live on Casco Bay islands – catching afternoon ferries. So the board voted to keep high school start times unchanged for the 2015-2016 school year but create a task force made up of various stakeholders to explore the challenges and potential benefits of possibly making the shift to a later start time in the future.

As part of the new changes, Portland METRO buses will transport most high school students to and from classes. The School Board on March 3 authorized Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk to develop a cost-sharing agreement with that bus service. School bus transportation will be provided for high school special education students.

When it comes to elementary schools, start and end times depend on which school bus transportation group a school is in. Times are as follows:

• Elementary School Group 1 (East End, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot) – 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

• Elementary School Group 2 (Hall, Riverton, Ocean Avenue and Reiche) – 8:05 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.

Most elementary schools currently start at 8:55 and end 3:05, although Riverton and East End school have grant-funded early start programs that begin at 8:15 a.m.

Other schedule changes include new times for Lyman Moore and Lincoln middle schools and the Bayside Learning Center, with a day that begins at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:05 p.m. Those schools now have varying start and end times that range from as early as 8 a.m. to as late as 3 p.m.

King Middle School’s day will start at 7:55 a.m. and end at 2:25 p.m. That school currently starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:25 p.m. That school will keep the same end time because most middle school students who live on islands attend that school and must leave by 2:25 p.m. in order to catch their afternoon ferry.

The longer day for students was part of a contract agreement between the district and the Portland teachers’ union that the School Board approved in December.

Starting this fall, students will attend school for 178 days per year, compared to the 180 days they’re attending this year. However, because each student day will be 20 minutes longer, students will actually gain learning time. Their new 6.5-hour day means they’ll get more than 46 additional instructional hours in school over the course of the year. That’s a 4 percent increase over the current year’s student hours.

In other business on Tuesday, the board recommended a 2015-2016 school budget to send to the City Council. The $102,776,657 budget that Superintendent Caulk has proposed contains an expenditure increase of less than $1.2 million or 1.2 percent.

“This budget does several things,” Caulk told the board at Tuesday’s meeting. “It puts students first, it allows us to invest in our staff through professional development and pay them a competitive wage and it’s fair to taxpayers.”

The School Board will now present its recommended budget to the City Council on Monday, April 6. The council’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.