Changes are expected to be in place for the 2024-2025 school year for the Owen J. Roberts School District.
SOUTH COVENTRY TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Frustrations ran high at a school board meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania on Monday night after members approved a plan to have students start and end the school day at a later time.
These changes are expected to be in place for the 2024-2025 school year for the Owen J. Roberts School District.
According to the district, high school and middle school students will now start their day at 8 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m.
That's about a half hour later than the current start and end time.
Elementary school students will start their day about 20 minutes later, at 8:50 a.m., and dismiss at 3:30 p.m.
The district said it's a move it had been eyeing for years after pouring over multiple studies from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, which showed students would benefit from the extra half hour of sleep.
Studies said the added sleep improved academic performance, behavior, and physical and mental health.
Transportation needs have also been addressed.
"The decision to move forward with changes to our school start times is based, in part, on our district's ability to hire school bus drivers," the district said in a letter to parents.
In November 2023, the district announced that its transportation department was fully staffed with 90 full-time bus drivers.
An additional four drivers were also added to the rotation on January 2.
The district cited the bus driver shortage as a reason for slowing down its plan to change school times.
Whatever the case, Cheryl Hertzog, who has been advocating for the change for years, said she was happy the school board was listening to the science on this matter.
She said a later start will make a huge difference in the cognitive abilities of students.
"Every aspect of the students' health, wellbeing is tied up in their sleep," she said.
Meanwhile, parents like Kevin Verbosh said the district was failing to consider the financial impact on parents who have to work.
"There's a potential to incur a potential burden on families for childcare during those hours," Verbosh told Action News.
Other parents are worried about their student-athletes receiving less instructional time.
They fear the young athletes could be pulled from class even earlier so they can make it to sporting events.
"They will lose 30 minutes of instruction time that they don't lose with the current time," said Marie Hailey, a parent with a junior in high school.
The Action News Data Journalism team found that the move to a later start would be in line with most school districts in Pennsylvania.
According to statistics, a majority of districts begin the school day at 8:20 a.m. on average.
Nonetheless, parents in the Owen J. Roberts School District said they're in a tough spot.
"Our opinions have been voiced and our opinions don't matter," Robin Lawhorn said. "What else can we do?"