PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - About a dozen parents attended a school board meeting Tuesday night in Pinellas County. The parents presented a signed petition with more than 6,000 signatures from supporters who want high school start times to be pushed back from 7:05 to 8:30AM.
As they beg district leaders to push back high school start times, some wonder how the single change could impact the entire community.
Parents in Pinellas County, including Amy Weintraub, are leading the push for the change in start times. “We know what’s best for our kids. We want them to reach their academic potential, and the best way to do that is to push back start times to 8:30 AM,” Weintraub explained.
Pinellas County School district leaders won’t make a final decision on high school start times for a few months, however, some are voicing concerns over the potential change.
Jeff McConnell commutes in Pinellas County rush hour traffic daily. Pushing back high school times would frustrate him. “As a business person traveling on the road, there are traffic patterns and if you add more people to the same area at the same time, it’s going to back stuff up,” McConnell added. He can’t imagine another 29,000 high schoolers and their parents being added to the mix.
The change also concerns St Pete business owner Dore Herman. As the owner of two ice cream shops on St Pete Beach, she relies on high schoolers for after school employment. “If they got out later in the afternoon, that would be difficult. It would be better if they can come earlier than later because they can’t stay too late at night,” Herman explained.
Any change in schedules could make it tricky to schedule employees at Larry’s Ice Cream Shop and Twistee’s Ice Cream to cover the early afternoon rush.
School board leaders have a big decision on their hands, which they don’t plan to make until April, but parents vow to be there every step of the way.
“With this level of parent support, they just can’t ignore the issue,” Weintraub explained, “We hope by seeing us face to face, the school board will be empowered to make the right decision for kids. When you have to face someone with strong feelings about how it impacts their kids, elected officials have to pay attention.”
Parents say they won’t stop fighting until the district agrees to move back high school start times to 8:30 AM.