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Education: School chairman asks district to look at later start for high schools

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The 10 o’clock scholar has an ally in Jim Dumm.

Dumm, who chairs the Georgetown County Board of Education, asked district staff this week to start looking at the impact of changing the start time of high schools to 9 or 10 a.m. He said he continues to see studies that show teenagers aren’t wired for the current schedule, which begins as early as 7:45 a.m. at Carvers Bay High and as late as 7:58 a.m. at Waccamaw High.

“Let’s start talking about it,” Dumm said. “I think it could be better in the long run.”

Superintendent Randy Dozier recalled that a superintendent in Greenville once proposed a similar change. “He’s no longer with them,” Dozier said.

But he said the district could put together a study committee.

“You sure tackled a real volatile subject,” Board Member Richard Kerr said.

Board Member Arthur Lance, a former principal, said he’s seen the same studies over the years, but they don’t offer much help in implementation. “Where is that magic number?” he asked. “In one study five minutes made a difference.”

Dumm was inspired to make the suggestion this week after the district staff presented a plan for creating a three-year school calendar rather than doing annual calendars. That’s an idea he has pushed for years.

Only a few districts have multi-year calendars, said Doug Jenkins, director of human resources for Georgetown County Schools.

“The purpose is to give people more planning time,” Dumm said. And with that policy in place, he ventured into new territory.

Dumm, who is executive director of Tara Hall Home for Boys, said information continues to appear that shows teens have trouble getting to sleep early and getting up early to meet school schedules and still get eight hours sleep. “The literature continues to show that kids do better” on a different schedule, he said. “Why not look at it?”

He acknowledges it wouldn’t be easy. Teacher and staff schedules would change. Transportation schedules would be affected because middle and high school bus routes are often linked. “I know it would create a lot of havoc for a while,” Dumm said.

But few of those problems would be felt by the students, he notes. “They’re supposed to be our concern.”

After-school activities and jobs would be affected, too, and that would need to be studied. “I’m far more interested in what it’s going to do for academics rather than sports,” Dumm added.

He doesn’t think it will take long to gather information about the schedule change. “I’d like the discussion to start in our district,” he said.

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