From the Washoe County School District:

The time that students go to school and return home may be changing for the 2012-2013 school year for all schools in the Washoe County School District. The District has been reviewing the start and end times at the elementary, middle and high school levels for the past year to ensure that the schedule provides the best learning opportunities for all children as supported by the goals in the District's strategic plan Envision WCSD 2015 - Investing In Our Future.

School start and end times are referred to as bell schedules and the idea to improve the WCSD bell schedule originally emerged as a way to save on transportation costs. During the year-long research process, it became clear that the more important impact would be on student achievement, attendance and safety. Last spring a comprehensive plan was launched to gather input from District staff, parents and community members through a survey and school based meetings.
 
Chief Logistics and Operations Officer Rick Harris, who is also the project leader for the bell schedule changes, said the District is working collaboratively with all community stakeholders to gather input. "We listened to the concerns and formed a committee of teachers, principals, support staff, association representatives, parents and others that have been researching the issues. Now we are going back out to gather additional input on school start times at all levels K-12." Harris continued, "We are launching a second round of open meetings on the bell schedule in December. Once we gather that additional input, a second survey will be open to all stakeholders."
 
Results from the survey taken in the spring of 2011 showed one schedule emerging with much interest that primarily focused on moving the middle school start time to later in the day and maximizing the instructional opportunities for all students by adding 30 minutes to most elementary school schedules. Although the vast majority of stakeholders supported a change, there were remaining issues that needed more research and discussion, which is what the bell schedule committee has been reviewing and researching.
 
Sparks Middle School Principal Kevin Carroll, who is also a member of the committee studying the bell schedule, says middle school students could benefit from the changes. "As a principal, I feel it is important to develop a bell schedule that best meets the needs of all our students. As we develop this schedule for next school year, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration." Carroll continued, "Some of these include student safety, extracurricular activities, and our students' ability to focus on learning during the time they are at school. Our goal as a committee is to look at all levels (K-12) and maximize the school day to better serve our students."
 
Tami Berg, Vice President of Legislative Services for the Nevada Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and a bell schedule committee member, said the issue of school start times needed to be addressed. "Research shows that middle school and high school adolescent minds perform best later in the morning. While there are pros and cons to any bell schedule change, the benefit for the students outweighs the negative concerns in my opinion as a parent."
During the upcoming meetings, bell schedule committee members will be available to provide information, answer questions, and explain how parents, school district staff and community members can continue to provide input. Research and information about potential bell schedules will be discussed at the meetings as well. Parents and staff will be notified by Connect-Ed phone messages about the meetings near their locations. However, attendance and input are welcomed at any or all of the meetings. Additionally, a new survey focused on the bell schedule will be administered after gathering community input during the meetings.
For more information, go to http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/community/bell-schedule-information or you can attend one of the following meetings:
• Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 - McQueen High School cafeteria (9:00 a.m.)