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Beaufort County school board gets feedback on start times

  • Shellie Murdaugh/For Beaufort Today Beaufort County school board members participate in a town hall meeting last week.

School start times were a topic of discussion between citizens and Beaufort County school board members May 10 at Beaufort Elementary School.

Five board members representing the Beaufort and Battery Creek clusters — Earl Campbell, David Striebinger, Cynthia Gregory-Smalls, Joseph Dunkle and Geri Kinton — met with their constituents in an informal town hall meeting.

Opinions varied on the current staggered start times at the elementary and high schools. Some said they have worked in their first year and want them to continue, while others said they have not been successful.

“We do not like the start times,” said Desiree Mungin, a teacher at Battery Creek High School. “There are a lot of parents and colleagues of mine, north of the Broad, middle and high schools, that agree. The negatives outweigh the positives.”

Kinton said the student services committee was scheduled to meet May 11 and the topic was on the agenda. She said once they discuss the issue and have a recommendation, it will be taken to the board at a future meeting.

Some Beaufort Elementary School parents said the start times have benefited their children. Those with children in both elementary and high school said they did not like the times.

“I have two children, one in elementary and one in high school,” Tiana Parker said. “I find that this time thing has been total turmoil in my house. The kids can’t have jobs because by the time they get their homework done and get to their jobs, that makes it impossible to do that. This time change thing has really caused turmoil.”

Kerri Lewis, another parent, asked if there had been formal survey sent to parents and teachers.

“Try to imagine every child in this situation,” Lewis said.

Gregory-Smalls said the concerns were not new and the committee is aware of all discussions and concerns.

Board members said they would take under consideration the idea of a survey being distributed to a wider audience, including School Improvement Councils and Parent Teacher Organizations as well as any other groups that would be affected by start time decisions.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said work could be done with the Beaufort County Education Association within a forum group to develop questions for a survey.

Francena Dantzler asked if school menus would be different next year. Moss said there would be some relaxation in guidelines under the new federal administration, but he did not have any specifics about potential changes.

Parker said cellphone use within the schools was a concern. She said cyber-bullying and students bringing their phones to school to record fights has been an issue. Board members explained there is a district mobile app to report cyber-bullying.

The audience also asked about teacher retention. The district was recently able to provide supplement checks to certified employees and classified staff, including bus drivers.

“When you look at our salary scale, we are one of the highest paid districts in the state, but with that it costs the most to live here,” Dunkle said. “We are limited with our financial resources, we can only raise our taxes so much and raise so much revenue. We do recognize that.”