StarMetro gives a lift to late start pilot program for Leon County schools
By Anjelicia Bruton
Students who don’t have their own transportation and attend public schools in Leon County will get free StarMetro passes so that they can take advantage of an option to start classes later than normal.
High Schools are currently developing master schedules to determine how many students will be taking the alternate start time option and be transportation dependent. Leon County School Board will meet Aug. 9 to finalize the pilot program.
When the school board passed the late hour option, City Commissioner, Scott Maddox wanted to look into the feasibility of partnering with StarMetro to provide free transportation.
Maddox said as a parent he understands why it was necessary to implement the Alternate Start Time Program, but it should be accessible for all high school students.
“I watched when several concerned parents came to the school board and petitioned them to have later start times because all of the empirical data showed teenagers learn better later in the morning,” Maddox said. “And of course anyone who has been a teenager or has a teenage child knows this to be true.”
“The school board’s reaction to that was to offer a later high school starting time but only for those kids that have independent transportation. So we would have two different school districts. One for those that were transportation dependent and one for those that were affluent enough to have access to transportation.”
The pilot program is put in place for students like incoming freshman, Zikhia Cook, who chose to take six classes in order to catch the school bus. Cook said not having transportation is the only reason she is not taking a seventh period.
“I would have to ask my grandmother to come pick me up,” Cook said.
Leon County School Board approved later start times for students in February, following a parents’ petitioning. The new alternative schedule allows students to have the option to start their day at 7:30 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. or 8:30 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
Chris Petley, spokesperson for Leon County Schools, said high schools have offered seven periods before but there has been some difficulty executing it because of a move to a two-tier system.
“It’s the first year that it’s going wider than what it used to be,” Petley said. “This was in place a few years ago at some schools, but this year it’s going to be in all high schools’ mainstream.”
Zachary Ansley, assistant principal at Rickards High School, said that many students have signed up for seventh period but we’re not successful due to lack of transportation.
“They simply didn’t have a ride home,” Ansley said. “They could come to school in the morning on the bus, but at the end of the sixth period the busses would leave. There were students that had good intentions that signed up for the seventh period class, but they didn’t have a way home.
“They lived too far away from the school to walk, there parents got off too late from work for them to remain at school and still be picked up, so a lot of students that needed it went home when that sixth period ended.”
Ansley said students would benefit from the partnership with StarMetro and the school board.
“I believe there will be a lot of students taking advantage of that plan and those students who went home early and said that they didn’t have transportation whether that was true or not surely can’t use that as an excuse anymore.”