The debate of whether to change school starting times is escalating, with the School Committee digging deeper into the issue this week.

The committee will review a consultant's report on the issue, which for weeks has had parents sounding off to school officials.

The committee will again consider several options for start times when it meets Thursday at 7 p.m.

School Committee Chairman Joel Blumstein said he does not expect the committee to make a decision this week. A lot of work still must be done, he said.

The committee decided to look into having high school and middle school students start their day later because of studies showing teenagers need more sleep.

The current school start times are 7:45 a.m. for middle and high school students and 8:45 a.m. for the elementary grades.

A community forum on the issue brought dozens of parents to Andover High School last month. Parents of elementary school students urged that their children not be sent to school earlier than they are now.

The School Committee hired the Edulog company, a consulting firm, to provide several options for start times.

"The Edulog study provides the district an understanding of what is logistically possible, given the realities of the Andover community, including the need to cover more than 220 miles of roadway and transport to and from 10 public and three private schools," School Committee member Shannon Scully said. 

Edulog's "Transportation Optimization Study" contains 44 pages and is dated Nov. 13. The study provides several options for the School Committee to consider.

One option would "flip" the start times for older and younger students, with elementary schools beginning at 7:40 a.m. and the middle and high schools starting at 8:30 a.m.

That scenario, however, would have students at the Pike and Montessori schools being picked up at 6:10 a.m. Other elementary students would be picked up afterward.

This approach would require the addition of six buses, according to the report.

The "shift" option would have the older students start school at 8:15 a.m. while the younger grades would begin an hour later. The earliest pickup time would be 7:15 a.m. at Wood Hill Middle School. 

The shift would also require six more buses, according to the Edulog report.

"Decoupling" the middle and high school bus runs was rejected by the consultant as "impractical."

"Not all of these options are feasible," Blumstein said.

He said he did not like the idea of picking up elementary students shortly after 6 a.m.

"The report does not define all potential bell time options. Instead, the information in the report can be used by the district as a guide to determine viable bell time options for further consideration," Scully said. "I’m looking forward to the School Committee meeting on Thursday night to clarify my understanding of the transportation analysis and expect that work by the district to determine potential bell time scenarios will be ongoing." 

The School Committee will meet in the Town Offices at 36 Bartlet St. Representatives of Edulog are expected to be present, Blumstein said.


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