Some schools can try out the longer days next year

They'll be mandatory in 2008-2009.

Published February 28, 2007

TAMPA - Many Hills-borough schools will have the option of lengthening their days next year, but the School Board appears to be pushing off changes to bell times across the county until the following year.

After hearing from high school principals, school officials are dropping a proposal to add minutes to the class day at every high school and middle school. Instead, they want to give principals flexibility over schedules.

Many high school principals already had worked out schedules for the coming year with their faculties. School officials didn't want to force further disruptions.

"We certainly want to help with some flexibility this first year," said Jack Davis, the district's chief information and technology officer.

Bell schedules were discussed Tuesday at a School Board workshop on overhauling transportation policies. A slightly longer school day - 20 minutes at the end of the high school day and 15 in middle school - would give bus drivers more time between routes.

During the 2008-2009 school year, Hillsborough is looking at uniform bell times as it rolls out new transportation policies.

It will pilot the changes next year at select schools in southeast Hillsborough.

In addition to a longer school day, students may have to walk farther to catch a bus. The School Board is moving forward with a plan to make 500 feet the minimum distance between bus stops. The maximum walk would be one mile for elementary school students and 1.5 miles in middle and high school.