By Mair Famet
It’s been two years since Durham Public Schools (DPS) changed bell schedules, but many students still don’t like it.
Students felt surprised when the schedule changed. Based on academic and medical research, the DPS Board of Education thought it would help improve students test scores, behavior and overall productivity.
“The CDC and a public health service recommended that schools start later for students,” said Natalie Beyer, a DPS school board member and former Riverside parent.
A Colby College professor analyzed data from Wake County Public Schools and concluded that starting middle and high school at 9 a.m. or later can be a cost-effective way to increase test scores by 2 to 3 percentage points.
But many Riverside students aren’t getting more sleep than they were when school started early. The new schedule has shifted their schedule, but not increased the amount of sleep they’re getting.
“In an average school week I get about five hours of sleep a night,” said junior Annisianna Egerton. ”I am always busy. I play tennis and I sometimes don’t get home until 10 if I have a game, and I also volunteer some nights and don’t get home till 8 p.m..”
Junior Eliza Simmons believes teachers will have to rethink the homework they assign for students to get more rest.
“I feel that teachers are inconsiderate at times,” said Simmons. “On an average school night, I get about five hours of sleep because of my job and my other after school activities.”
Other research shows that the changed start time is doing more harm than good.
In 2014-15, when the school bell schedule was in place and Riverside started at 7:30 am and ended at 2:30 pm, the four-year graduation rate was 84.6%. In 2016-17, when the bell schedule changed to 9:00 am – 4:00 pm,the graduation rate dropped to 80.8%. This might be due to the lack of afterschool time students feel they have. Students feel as if their evening hours are too late and they cannot get anything done.
There is also data that shows student behavior incidents, such as criminal acts and short-term suspension, have risen since DPS changed from the early start time to the later start time.
However, Beyer doesn’t believe that the start time has anything to do with the increase in student discipline from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
“Overall, our suspension and discipline data has shown many years of positive trends,” Beyer said. “Last year we saw some concerning increases and are working with individual schools to address this concern.”
Beyer also said the district convened a community task force co-chaired by Elaine O’Neal and Elizabeth Shearer to revise the student code of conduct. According to Beyer, the revised policy focuses on holistic practices, alternatives to suspension and restorative justice.
Beyer said she does not see the district going back to the old bell schedule in the near future
Not all students dislike the change. Freshman Sincere Livingston says he prefers the 9 a.m. schedule.
“When I get home, I have time to get myself together.” said Livingston.
Freshman Donovan Vasquez agrees.
“Students get more sleep and more time to prioritize themselves,” said Vasquez. “You get more time to sleep and more time to focus on your work. You also don’t need to wake up as early to catch the bus.”