BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem Central High School is considering moving its morning bell from 7:35 to 8 a.m. as early as this fall.
First considered in 2018, the district’s School Start Time Committee announced the proposal at the Feb. 26 Board of Education meeting this year.
It did not recommend a delayed morning bell for the district’s five elementary schools though. But the middle school’s start time may be altered by five minutes to accommodate the high school’s new start time.
Both plans for the middle and high schools have not been confirmed.
“There is still quite a bit of work to be done before this could be implemented for September,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “What the actual schedule might look like and what our new high school dismissal time will be are details that need to be finalized first. After those are determined, our focus will turn to stakeholder outreach so our students and staff, parents and the community at large are fully informed of the reasons for the switch and what, if any, impact will accompany this change.”
Monroe added that the delayed morning bell is being considered because the district wants to continue addressing student wellness.
A recent transportation study found school bus transportation, routes and schedules can still serve students and have little or no impact on the district’s budget.
This in-depth feasibility study was conducted by a district-hired private transportation consultant, School Bus Consultants (SBC), in 2019.
An initial proposal to have the high school start at 8:30 a.m. — which would have forced the elementary schools to start at 7:35 a.m. and finish and 1:35 p.m. — was rejected last September. The Board of Education felt it was “such a drastic change for elementary students and instead asked the consultants to focus on a transportation plan that could allow both the middle school and high school to start at 8 a.m.,” according to the district’s website.
SBC found that the district now runs under a three-tier system with most of its buses serving three bus runs — the high school, middle and elementary schools.
It studied the possibility of a two-tier system where the entire fleet could be distributed to “accommodate both high school and middle school within the same timeframe.” However, middle and high school students would still ride in separate buses.
“For more than a year and a half, this committee has had student wellness as its number one priority and the extra sleep time, experts tell us, is key to our students feeling more alert and being better prepared for the school day,” Monroe said. “They have worked hard examining any potential impact on students, staff and families, talking with transportation consultants, considering fiscal challenges and respecting differing viewpoints.
More updates regarding a new high school morning bell are expected in the near future and there are “opportunities for feedback” soon from district families and students. “We hope to make that move a reality sooner rather than later,” she concluded.