COMMENTARY: Fort Bend ISD makes the wrong call on bell schedule

Michael Sudhalter

Michael Sudhalter

The Fort Bend Independent School District made the wrong call when it decided not to move forward on a discussion that involved changing its bell schedule.

The move would have benefited the district financially, saving anywhere from $3-4 million, according to FBISD Chief Financial Officer Steven Bassett.

But more importantly, the educational rationale made a ton of sense for the district’s 70,000+ students.

Currently, high schools go from 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., elementary schools, from 8:10 a.m.-3:10 p.m. and middle schools, from 8:55 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

FBISD says that “preliminary focus group results” helped the district make a decision to remain with the status quo.

It was close though – with 38 percent opposed to the changes, and 33 percent supportive of it.

Educational research has shown that high school students do better when they start later, and elementary students benefit from earlier starts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It makes sense. High school students have many extracurricular activities, jobs and homework – all of which have the potential to keep them up until 10:30/11 the last algebra problem is complete, they’re up until Midnight or later. Even if a kid lives right next door to the school, he/she would have to be up by 6:45 a.m. to arrive on time.

It’s common knowledge that eight hours of sleep is recommended, especially for youngsters.

Anyone with elementary-age students can tell you that they have a ton of energy when they wake up in the morning.

As the day moves along and they get past that second recess, they begin to get tired. Then, they’re not as focused as they were earlier in the day.

There may be some logistical changes for the district to make these beneficial changes – I understand that.

But it’s worth it for the sake of the students.

There’s a reason why FBISD isn’t taking action on this issue – and I believe it’s a certain degree of apathy.

In late 2014, the district announced that it was going to begin phasing out its academy programs.

Less than a week later, a large number of parents and students filled the FBISD Administration Annex with T-Shirts, signs and a lot of things to say.

Before the pro-academy folks could take their coats off, FBISD Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre announced that the academies will stay (although many of them were later relocated).

The point was clear – FBISD – like many logical public and private entities – listens to its constituents/customers when they make enough noise.

After Dupre’s announcement, the majority of the audience left, which was unfortunate, because an interesting presentation on Career & Technical Education went largely unheard by parents and students.

Sure, the good people on the “FBISD Concerns” Facebook page may raise a ruckus over the Bell Schedule topic, but unless they’re filling an Annex or board room, the status quo will remain.

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