Troy school board approves later start time for high schools

Time will be implemented in 2022-23 school year

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published May 6, 2021

File photo

Advertisement

TROY — Troy School District high schoolers during the 2022-2023 school year and beyond will be able to get a little extra shuteye each morning before having to wake up for school.

The Board of Education voted 5-1 at an April 20 regular meeting to approve a resolution to implement a high school start time of 8 a.m. or later beginning in the fall of 2022.

Trustee Elizabeth Hammond voted against the resolution, citing concerns the district lacked available revenue to fund the change. Trustee Nancy Philippart was absent from the meeting, but she electronically submitted her support for the resolution.

Troy high schools currently begin at 7:20 a.m., a change that was made in 2011 as a way to cut costs and save when state funding had been cut. Troy Superintendent Rich Machesky said the district lost about $11 million in revenue as an effect of the 2008 recession.

At that time, the district moved from a three-tier busing system to a five-tier system, which reduced transportation costs by roughly $800,000 annually. An additional $800,000 will be needed for the school to re-implement the three-tiered system.

The approved resolution and later start time come after a few years of dialog the school board has continued to have with district administrators about the positive effects on social-emotional health and academic achievement.

While the trustees were collectively encouraged by and in support of research showing positive effects on students from later high school start times, Hammond’s concern was not having room in the budget to support it.

“While I support the data that shows that school start times that start later are healthier for kids, my concern is the same as the concern has been on this board for the past four or five years. We’ve been discussing this over quite a long period of time, and had always come to the same conclusion that if we were to do this, we need to get some additional funding from Lansing so we could afford to do it,” she said.

“I’ve asked repeatedly for the administration and members of this board to provide me with information of where we plan to get this money from. To date, I’ve received nothing.”

Hammond’s concerns stem from the district’s finances ending in a deficit budget the last time they approved a non-COVID-era budget. She feels lucky federal relief funding was able to help the district close some of those shortfalls, but she’s not convinced that will stick around.

“Once COVID is done and we’re back at regular school, I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe that we won’t again find ourselves potentially in a deficit budget if we continue with the same programs and plans we had in place before,” she said. “I’m in support of the research and data. I’m in support of the science. I think it’s what’s best for our kids, from a social and emotional standpoint, but I will not direct this district to take on any more of a financial burden until I’m shown where the money is going to come from.”

Other trustees, including Board Vice President Nicole Wilson, were not worried about how the change in busing would be funded. She said the district’s budget hasn’t actually operated in a deficit.

“Unlike Ms. Hammond, I’m not concerned about the funding, mostly because I realize my tenure on the board is shorter, but while we’ve passed deficit budgets, in actuality we’ve added to our fund balance every year, the way our business operations have been so effective at saving us money. We haven’t had to ever actually operate as a deficit. We’ve always been able to add.”

Board President Karl Schmidt echoed Wilson and said that the district has added to the fund balance every year for the past five years. If the district were to fall into financial problems again, they could switch back to the five-tier busing system that is currently in place, he said.

“This is what it comes down to, to me: What is the investment per pupil per year?” Schmidt said. “Our operational costs per pupil per year is about $70 a student. If I said to you, we have a new educational aide that will provide double digit improvements in achievement, reduce tardiness, reduce absences and even reduce automobile accidents in the community, and I said we could do that for $70 a year per pupil, I don’t think we’d have much of an argument here.

“For me, when I think about that as investment, it’s a phenomenal return for $70 a year per student.”

Machesky acknowledged Hammond’s funding concerns, stating that the two challenges to implementing a later high school start time will be the additional operational costs and the time needed to implement it properly.

“As we think about the operational expenditure, which means the additional drivers associated, the additional gas and so forth, I’m confident that in over 18 months — two budget planning cycles, essentially — we can make the adjustments necessary to assure we have the operating revenues necessary to account for the additional $800,000 expenditure,” he said, adding that if it started in the fall of 2021, the district may not be able to hire enough bus drivers.

“I’m also confident that as we think about funding in Michigan, over the course of the next several years, we never know entirely what to expect. Funding does appear as if it’s going to be relatively stable over the next several years, as well as some additional funding we’ve received.”

However, Machesky’s response still wasn’t substantive enough to change Hammond’s position. “I would love to spend that money every day, but we don’t get $70 extra dollars per pupil, so what aren’t we going to have $70 to spend on once we make this change? That’s my concern,” she said.

For more information, visit troy.k12.mi.us.

Advertisement