Time For A New Start

High school students will start school an hour later next fall—but also go an hour later in the afternoon.


Nerlyn Martinez-Esqueda, Writer-East

Recently, with the high schools merging and trying to get past the pandemic, change seems to come around more often than usual. 

On Tuesday, May 25, the school board trustees decided on changing next year’s school bell schedule—meaning that the elementary, middle, and high schools will be starting and ending at new times this fall. Elementary students will have a 6-hour and 30-minute day, starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 2:00 p.m. (These times vary slightly for Roosevelt and Mary Beck). The middle schoolers will have a 7-hour and 5-minute day, starting at 8:15 a.m. and ending at 3:20 p.m. And, the high school students have a 7-hour and 25-minute day, starting at 8:35 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. 

“I just found out about it this morning!” Exclaims Ashley Ochoa, a sophomore at Elkhart-East. “So did I!” adds Emma Westfall, another sophomore at Elkhart-East. Although this idea was under discussion for some time now, many students had no idea this would be happening—until it did. Not even Elkhart High School’s weekly announcements (sent on Wednesday, May 26) mentioned anything about this change. Although Superintendent Steve Thalheimer states, “After I presented the bell schedule to the board in early April, we conducted a thought exchange survey from April 16 to April 30 to collect feedback from the public.”  Only 58 students participated in said survey.

“I can see why starting school later in the day may seem appealing,” admits Westfall, “but I don’t believe that it will be very beneficial. If anything,” she adds, “I think this would be a burden to a large majority of students.” Explaining further, Westfall states, “Students will have less time in the afternoon for studying and extracurricular activities.”

Chiming in, Ochoa says, “I feel like the time change will mess up a lot of students’ schedules. Some people have jobs, and the time change may affect this,” she insists.

Continuing along those lines, Westfall adds in this: “Many students won’t be able to go home and relax until after dark.  And even then, they have homework to work on.”

Thalheimer assures they have worked everything out with the elementary athletic supervisors and the athletic directors regarding sports. “We did the best we could given all the puzzle pieces we had to combine together for the complexity of transportation in a district this size,” he states.

Students have been speculating why this is happening, such as it being done due to limited buses. Thalheimer has indeed confirmed that, due to the merger, a new transportation system was needed. Another one of the students guesses is that it is hoped that high school students will come to school more often because they get to sleep in longer. “If this decision was made thinking it would allow students to get more sleep, then what about the students who will have to stay up later to finish work they didn’t have time to do right after school?” Questions Westfall. However, some of those who participated in the survey back in April were thankful for a later start that aligns with research on the need for adolescent sleep and later start times.

Ana Esqueda, a mother to an incoming kindergarten student, as well as a Class of 2023 and a Class of 2025 student, says, “Although I don’t really like the idea that my older kids won’t get home until after 4 p.m., I personally think that this change will be beneficial. I was struggling to find someone to take my youngest to school or put him on the bus,” she confides. “Now that he will be going to school earlier than my oldest, she is able to walk him to his bus stop and then drive him to school in the future.” 

Change is always unsettling. Sometimes, Thalheimer suggests, it just requires trust and communication. “Students are welcomed to talk to their building administrators or to me about their thoughts on any issue,” Thalheimer reassuringly concludes. In time, it will all seem normal—until the next change!