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Hillsborough could start high schools at 8:30 a.m. Why can't Pinellas?

Christian Surber, 19, gets off the school bus in front of his home in Seminole Wednesday, May 3, 2017.


Christian Surber, 19, gets off the school bus in front of his home in Seminole Wednesday, May 3, 2017.



Some Hillsborough County families rejoiced today when Hillsborough announced later bell times for its high school students.

In response to an outpour of parent input, that district's proposed high school schedule will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., though it means an earlier elementary school day, from 7:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m.

If Hillsborough, a school district that is double the size of Pinellas can make it work, why can't it happen here?

"It absolutely wouldn't be a money saver," said Pinellas schools superintendent Mike Grego. "We could certainly move it back but it would move everything back."

Grego said Pinellas has been exploring the idea of later start times for high school students, who now begin their day at 7:05 a.m. The district has been using software called Edulog to analyze the efficiency of the bus system.

If moving up start times make buses run more efficiently, then it could be a possibility, said associate superintendent of operational services Clint Herbic.

Herbic said Pinellas would also reach out to Hillsborough to share data and see how they do it. But the change, if there is one, would be minimal.

Pinellas' bell schedule would only be moved up by 10 minutes to a maximum of 30 minutes. It could also mean earlier start times for elementary and middle school students, whose parents may not be in favor of the changes.

"It doesn't look like there's going to be a whole lot of room for improvement for moving anything significantly," Herbic said. "if we're able to help and make some improvements, then definitely we'll do what we can to push those forward."

Edulog began analyzing the bus system around May. A determination of new bell times could be made around the district application program period in January. 

Pinellas offers transportation beyond zoned schools to some magnet schools. Unlike Hillsborough, Pinellas is a compact county, and the district must factor in traffic woes.

Herbic said the district hasn't conducted a parent survey regarding bell times since around 2010. Grego said parents are split on later start times; some, he said, say the longer afternoon means more time for work, athletics and extra-curricular activities.

"We'll continue to explore it," he said. "No one's opposed. But certainly not at 8:30 a.m."

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 5:21pm]


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