Debate continued tonight over exactly what time the school day should begin for Pittsburgh public high school students.
To use school buses more efficiently and to brace for Port Authority cutbacks, school superintendent Linda Lane had proposed changing school starting times to save $1.2 million.
That proposal called for starting most high schools at 7:11 a.m., which triggered criticism and citations of research showing that teens' biological clocks don't adapt well to early morning starts. Some feared it would cause attendance and achievement problems.
As a result, Ms. Lane announced last week that most high schools would start at 7:36 a.m. in a plan the district called "cost neutral." She has maintained that school start times don't require a board vote.
But tonight school board member Mark Brentley Sr. unsuccessfully tried to win passage of a motion that called for high school to start at 8 a.m.
Board member Regina Holley agreed with him, saying the research is clear that a later start would help students. She said that students who don't have the ability to get to school on their own wouldn't attend at all if they missed their early bus.
"We are not going to have a good attendance rate for our youngsters if the time is set too early," she said.
Board member Theresa Colaizzi said that years ago she had favored a later start until she learned the practical aspects of it. "The issues were too large for us to deal with. It's not as simple as you're suggesting," she said. "I don't disagree with the reasoning."
However, she said she was offended at the uproar over the starting time. She said the district is in a difficult budget situation and that the choice could be a 15-minute time change or laying off 50 teachers.
Board member Thomas Sumpter said he favors a later starting time but thought there should be more consultation with administration about what the impact on the school system would be.
Board member Jean Fink said she raised six children who attended Pittsburgh Carrick High School, which had a starting time around 7:30 a.m. She said a "really effective" strategy for wakening "nocturnal teenagers is cold water."
Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955. First Published May 23, 2012 11:15 PM