Germantown School District denies funding for two bell times

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GERMANTOWN, Tenn.  --  Board members listened to dozens of students, parents, teachers, and administrators make their case Monday for and against eliminating a 7 a.m. start time for the school district.

Currently, Houston Middle and High schools begin their day at 7 a.m. Parents and students presented research showing the dangers of such an early start time, and statistics saying less than ten percent of the schools in America start that early.

The board previously promised to eliminate the 7 a.m. start time after one year, and agreed that it isn't healthy for students.

However, Germantown's bus transportation contract with Durham Bus Company and the city of Collierville is based on that 7 a.m. start time. Changing it would cost Germantown money for a breach of contract.

The district found a way to pay for the two-bell times, with all its penalties: either by eliminating funding for several items like teaching positions, computers, and retirement funding or by paying for all that and taking it out of a reserve fund.

Board members Ken Hoover and Mark Dely both supported the last option. They were convinced they money could be taken from reserves and built back quickly.  But board members Lisa Parker, Natalie Williams, and Linda Fisher all disagreed.

Parker brought in national politics, comparing funding the start times to the federal government, saying it's paying for things off a credit card, and you see what kind of fix that put this country in.

Parker went on to say that Germantown is known for being the best, and people are waiting for them to make a misstep. She felt having such little money is reserves would be one, and she wasn't going to let that happen.

Dely tried any and everything with amendments and compromise to make the two bell times happen, with Hoover throwing in ideas as well, but none of the others on the board were persuaded.

Students talked about being off the honor roll this year,because of the start times, with one student saying she sleeps from the time she arrives home until dinner.

Teachers showed up in large numbers as well, with a few students from Houston High who said they supported their superintendent and were fine with bell times at 7 a.m.

One student asked for the money to be used for better science labs and technology, or even cleaner bathrooms.

Parents and students began laying financial donations down to help pay for the time change. Kids gave up Christmas money, and parents wrote checks for their kids college funds.

In the end, it didn't matter.

The board's decision angered some parents, who said this was not their idea of "local control" when they voted for the school district, and by messing with their children, the board has messed with them.