Philadelphia school district exploring 3-tiered bell schedule for next school year

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The School District of Philadelphia is exploring the idea of switching from more than 20 different school start times to a more uniform 3-tiered bell schedule for the upcoming school year.

The three school start times would be 7:30 a.m., 8:15 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Dr. William Hite, the district superintendent, says the shift will reduce the amount of time students spend on buses, help streamline routes, and make it easier to maintain enhanced bus cleaning between routes.

He says it will also help address transportation staffing challenges.

Hite says some schools have already been running on this 3-tiered bell schedule.

"All of the schools that have been operating in-person this year, because we released this last August, have been using this schedule," Hite said.

Those schools that have been utilizing the altered start times include archdiocesan and charter schools.

"Schools have a great deal of flexibility here," Hite added.

He also said it's his belief, as medical research also indicates, that high school students should start their days later.

However, a draft of start times given to schools obtained by Action News showed many high schools starting at the 7:30 a.m. time.

Hite said he had not seen the latest timetables sent to schools.

"The schedules may have evolved because we have been getting feedback constantly," said Hite.

The schools themselves had until Tuesday of this week to approve or reject schedules.

"The whole thing feels rushed. We were kind of told last minute about all this," said Spring Garden School ESOL teacher and building representative Susan Majarowitz.

By contract, the teacher's union has now stepped in for those that rejected the time change.

"Schools didn't get these schedules until Monday either, so that's where the confusion comes in," said PFT President Jerry Jordan.

Jordan said union and school district reps will meet to hammer out the details.

"We'll look at what the discrepancies are and see if we can't resolve the issues of the schedules for those schools," Jordan said.

The district said it is currently in the process of getting input from school leaders and will set up focus groups to hear issues from families.
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