The Norman Transcript

August 31, 2013

Residents are settling into new school times despite controversy

By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — School bells are ringing earlier in Noble, and despite early controversy, residents seem to be settling into the new routine.

Parents Jarrid and Stacy Matlock have two children in Noble Public Schools. Kensey attends fifth grade at Pioneer and Kaitlyn attends sixth grade at Curtis Inge. The earlier school start time required the Matlock family to shift work hours to accommodate dropping Kensey at 7:15 a.m. — the earliest allowable drop-off time at Pioneer — and sending Kaitlyn to a friend’s house at 7:30 a.m. Stacy Matlock says their youngest “isn’t a morning person, so it’s a struggle getting her up at 6 a.m.” After school, she rides the bus to a friend’s house until dad can pick her up after work.

“It’s been an inconvenience, but we’re lucky to have friends to help accommodate,” Matlock said. “I understand why the school did it. They were in a bad situation without enough bus drivers. It was unfortunate that the schools only gave one weeks’ notice so a lot of parents were scrambling to make arrangements.”

Despite the short-notice schedule change, Frank Solomon, high school principal and transportation director for Noble Public Schools, said there was little the district could do. With over 140-plus square miles to cover, the district simply couldn’t staff the bus routes. Solomon said a week before school started, they were still nine bus drivers short, so the district went to double routing, which meant they went from 28 to 20 routes. Some routes could only be run once due to length.

The James and Shannon Jones family has two sons, James, a freshman at Noble High, and Jett, and 8th grader at CIMS. Shannon Jones says with a chuckle that the biggest difference is, “we have to get out of bed.” Other than that, she said the change hasn’t really affected her family other than altering their morning departure time and route taken to avoid traffic, but when she looks out the window at 6:36 a.m. and sees a little kid walking to school (with an adult, she is careful to add), “it’s disheartening.” She wonders “Why not the little kids start later?”

This question seems to be on many minds, but the National Sleep Foundation’s website cites Wolfson and Carskadon as saying,“Teens are among those least likely to get enough sleep; while they need on average 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health and brain development, teens average fewer than seven hours per school night by the end of high school, and most report feeling tired during the day.”

Later school start times for teens is well supported and documented in research — a fact that Solomon cites as a reason for Noble having later school start times for teens.

“What do you do? What choices do you have? It’s better to adjust time slots than have kids waiting on the corner with no bus drivers,” Solomon said. With the change, he says, everybody gets to school on schedule.

But it’s not just morning schedules that have changed. For the bigger kids, Jones says sports practice doesn’t start until 4 p.m. or later and the students practice until 7 p.m. She says her highschooler has homework from every class, and later sports practice can make getting homework done a challenge.

Team practice is a consideration Matlock echoes. Her 6th grader plays volleyball and practice and games have shifted to later time slots.

“It was 8:30 p.m. when she had dinner,” Matlock said of her daughter’s recent schedule. “We send an extra meal or money with her so she can eat after school. It’s a situation that we’re all learning to accommodate. It’s becoming more and more of our regular routine. It was challenging the first week of school to make sure everyone was where they needed to be. We’re adjusting. Now we’re in school a couple of weeks we’re getting a better routine down.”

In the end, Solomon sums it up this way: “Any time you make a change, it’s difficult, but we’re getting there.”