Sherman schools may see new start and end times starting this fall. The Sherman Independent District is proposing new start times that will include a 40-minute difference between start times for some schools.


Under the proposed times, Elementary schools will start classes at 7:40 a.m. each day and end at 3:15 p.m. Meanwhile, secondary grade levels will start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m.


“For that first tier, there is hardly any difference in that first tier tier of schools and what they are experiencing this year,” said Tyson Bennett, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.


The move to staggered start times comes as a part of the district’s transition plan for the upcoming school year. With Sherman High School slated to come online in Jan. 2021, the district is slated to see many changes, including the conversion of the existing high school into a new middle school, and a restructuring of other campuses next fall.


For the purposes of the 2020-2021 school year, Dillingham Intermediate will be on the same schedule as elementary schools. It will transition into an elementary school in 2021 after fifth grade is absorbed into the elementary school tier.


The idea of staggered start times was initially recommended in 2017 after an audit of the district’s transportation services. The recommendation was presented to the school board in May of 2018.


Stakeholders were surveyed in both 2018 and 2019 regarding staggered start times, and the idea was discussed as a part of the recent school attendance rezoning.


“We wanted to decrease the time we see kids on buses. We have kids that are getting picked up in the morning way too early,” Bennett said, noting some get on the bus as early as 6:15 or 6:30 and are on the bus as long as an hour and a half.


In addition to reducing the time students spend on the bus, the district is seeking to reduce the number of trips that involve riders of significantly different age. In part, this along with the lengthy trips, has led to behavior issues that the district is seeking to address.


Which switching to a two-tier system would not do much to reduce the number of riders on each trip, it would significantly drop the length of time a student spends on the bus. For elementary students, this would see a drop in average ride time from 27 minutes to 16 minutes. The maximum ride time for elementary students would drop more than half an hour from 86 minutes to 47 minutes.


By comparison, the average ride time for secondary students would drop by nine minutes, from 29 minutes to 20 minutes. The longest ride time would be cut nearly in half from 100 minutes to about 55 minutes.


Through this transition, the district is slated to potentially save more than $500,000 annually on transportation service. This primarily comes from the reduction of miles the buses will travel on the road, and drop the cost from $1.47 million to just over $909,000.


Board Chair Tim Millerick spoke in favor of the work that had been done in setting up the start times. Now, the task will be getting the information to the public.


“We knew some of this a number of years ago, but now it is down to some really great details,” he said.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.