Board revisits school start time

Just five years after making a change to school start time, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors are considering another change. However, according to Superintendent of Schools John Sanville, the revisit was delayed because of COVID.

But he added that everything discussed five years ago when the district made the first change to an 8 a.m. start time is still valid, that the older students get more sleep and are better rested. Since then, secondary classes have started at 8, and elementary school days at 9:10 a.m.

“Our kids were sleeping more [after that change], and they were more alert in class,” Sanville said. “That positive data…led us to a board goal to revisit the topic. And then COVID happened. So, it’s been a board goal for two years.”

According to Director of Curriculum & Instruction Michael Audevard, any changes that may be approved won’t be enacted until the 2023-24 school year. And Pocopson Elementary School Principal Cliff Beaver added that a start time of 8:30 or later is what the district thinks is best.

The proposed change is for secondary students at CF Patton Middle School and Unionville High School to begin at 9 a.m. and go to 3:43 p.m. Elementary school classes would begin at 8 a.m. and go to 2:30 p.m., except for kindergarten. Morning kindergarten would go from 8-10:35 a.m., and afternoon kindergarten would be from 11:55 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The district is also considering some afterschool activities for the elementary school kids.

Several directors, including board President Jeff Hellrung, said sleep science continues to verify the benefits of a later start time for teenagers.

Hellrung said he ran into Ken Batchelor, the former U-CF assistant superintendent who is now the superintendent in the Radnor district. Radnor became the first district to go to an 8:30 a.m. start time for the secondary schools. According to Hellrung, Batchelor said the difference was “like night and day.”

Addressing students, Hellrung said, “Everything about your day will be better if you’re well-rested, including your efficiency…Your machine is going to be working better.”

The board will not vote on any change until Aug. 15, though that might be pushed back to September or October as suggested by several directors. Between now and the final vote, the district will be asking for input from parents, teachers, and students alike.

The full proposal may be found here.

Other business

The board will vote on the district budget for the 2022-23 school year during its June 20 meeting. The proposed final budget calls for a total appropriation of $95,401,419. For Chester County property owners, property tax rates would be 30.73 mils and 15.98 mils for Chadds Ford Township property owners. Chadds Ford is the only Delaware County municipality in the district.

Those tax rates reflect an increase of 2.57 percent in Chester County and a 3.36 percent hike in Chadds Ford. That’s a 2.73 percent weighted average increase. (A mil is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 worth of assessed property value.)

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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