The subject of school start times in the Independence School District has raised some interesting conversations among members of the School Start Times Task Force, but the group isn’t ready to make any recommendations for changes.

The subject of school start times in the Independence School District has raised some interesting conversations among members of the School Start Times Task Force, but the group isn’t ready to make any recommendations for changes.

A report was given during Tuesday’s Independence Board of Education meeting on the committee’s progress.

“We are looking at if the current school times are in the best interest of students,” said Eric Holm, activities director at Truman High School. “We are looking at how it affects everything from athletics and activities, to bus tiers and bus schedules.”

Looking at the school starting times throughout the Kansas City area, the average time for high school is 7:25 a.m. For middle schools, the average time is 7:57 a.m., and for the elementary schools, it is 8:50 a.m.

For the most part, Independence is right in line with those times, with a swing of a few minutes either way. The only exceptions are Randall and Thomas Hart Benton elementary schools, which start at 7:34 a.m. The remainder of the elementary schools do not start until 9:04 a.m.

Keith Henry, director of transportation for the school district, said it is important to remember that the conversation is not only about when school starts, but also when the school day ends. Switching the high school to the second or third tier bus route would mean school would start later, which research says is best for high school students.

However, that would also mean the school day would end later, impacting athletic and activities schedules, work responsibilities and time with family. Currently, the high school is on the first tier bus route, followed by the middle school and elementary schools.

“There are a lot of things that must be considered in this discussion,” he said. “If we would move the elementary to the first tier, we could see an increase in snow days because our youngest population would be out the earliest. You would have more younger students in the dark and that would affect students walking to school. We need to consider how this will impact the family and the community as well as our students and staff.”

Other areas that could be affected are Head Start, high school students tutoring at the elementary level, the special needs population and those high school students who attend classes at the Herndon Career Center in Raytown.

“Sure, it’s easy to roll back (start times),” Henry said. “However, it has to end somewhere.”

The task force will now look at the feasibility of changing start times, using focus groups and community surveys.

Once that is completed, they will formulate recommendations for the school board.