What do later start times mean?
December 13, 2021
If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light in regards to schooling, it’s mental health, and within that, school start times. This topic has become especially pressing in our own district being that high school students are coming back from a year and a half of online schooling that began daily at 9:45 — a whopping 2 hours and 15 minutes later than the 7:30 a.m. start time that is in place right now.
It would be a drastic change for students, staff, and parents, even the community as a whole, considering that a later start time could affect traffic each day. What makes it an even bigger deal is how start times have changed in the past decade within Cherry Hill; in August of 2013, the district made the decision to move our school day from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (our current school day). Not only did the district make the start time earlier, but the school day grew in length as well. This change was made in consideration of after-school activities (clubs, sports, jobs), student transportation, but also because most other high schools in the New Jersey region operated with longer academic hours at earlier start times.
So essentially, pushing back start times would not be a small change, and it looks like that might happen soon.
Although it may seem like the issue belongs under the Board of Education, the jurisdiction lies with the district as a whole, which has been periodically discussing the issue over the years, including one point in early 2021. However, the question had always been brushed aside. The call for later start times really started to gain ground when Cherry Hill East students Gina Liu and Aiden Rood founded the “CHPS Students for Later Start Times” movement earlier this year.
The movement brings together students from Cherry Hill High School East and West to attend virtual rallies, speak at BOE meetings, and pressure leaders to act on the issue. In August, they met with Dr. Meloche, Dr. Perry, Dr. Morton, and BOE President Neary to discuss the topic. They agreed to initiate a formal process to get community input on the issue and look for possible changes.
Earlier in the school year, East students were given the opportunity to speak on the matter via a survey. Right now, the BOE has formed a committee that has taken consideration of the community’s input and is working to figure out a viable solution for start times.