PSD Explains Bell Schedule Plan Why It Might Not Stick

Sleep a little later or get up at the crack of dawn or earlier!

Bell ringing

Parents and students in the Philadelphia School District must adjust to new bell schedules this fall, but don’t get used to it because it’s probably going to change again.

The district is laying out its transportation plans for the 2021-22 school year through a series of webinars. It’s a slide presentation, if you have a question, you can type it, but participants have no microphone access.

Chief of Schools Evelyn Nuñez says the standardized approach to bell schedules is part of a larger strategy to improve outcomes for students. It’s also a way to deal with a bus driver shortage. The district says there are just not enough drivers to operate at pre-pandemic levels.

The district transports a lot of kids, 41,000 to be exact. It services 225 public schools, 123 charter schools and 440 non-public schools across Philadelphia and the five surrounding counties.

To get everyone where they need to be on time and without more than an hour in a bus, van or cab, the district says they had no choice but to standardize the schedules. That means 9am start times for most elementary schools and a 7:30 start time for most middle and high schools.

Danielle Floyd, General Manager of Transportation Services, says they consulted other urban districts of similar size and demographics across the country to come up with the plan. Parents, staff, and other stakeholders were also consulted. But were they heard?

The district concedes that earlier start times for high schoolers contradicts many scientific studies about teens and sleep. You can look at data and expert advice about teens and sleep here.

It also recognizes it’s problematic for working parents. If you must be at work at the same time your elementary student’s day begins, it’s going to be tricky.

The district gets it, its solution? Expanding before and after school programs and providing more resources to schools. But it’s vague on the specifics. There will be supervision for elementary students fifteen minutes before the bell and twenty minutes after dismissal, beyond that it’s not clear. It seems to be a wait and see, with each school expected to announce its own before and after school plans in August.

It’s not a perfect plan and the district is not committing to keeping it beyond the 2021-2022 school year. Nuñez says at the end of September families will receive surveys about the new bell schedules and forums will be scheduled. With more time to plan and input, the district could implement a brand-new plan for the 2022-23 school year.

There’s much more to come on this developing story. Phillytweens want to hear from you. Email your thoughts about the bell schedule changes and how it will affect your family at info@phillytweens.com.

Questions and concerns can be sent to the district at ask@philasd.org

–Jackie Gailey Raible
Editor & CEO