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To help boost the local economy, Manatee County schools must develop career-ready students, EDC officials said.
East County Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 5 years ago

Manatee County School Board agrees to keep school start times, plans for economic growth

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The majority of teachers, students, teachers and community members who took a survey said middle and high school start and end times should not be changed.
by: Amanda Sebastiano Staff Writer

Middle and high school students won't be sleeping in any later next school year.

Jan. 13, the Manatee County School Board decided not to change school start times. Middle school students will start school at 9:15 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m. High school students will continue to start classes at 7:45 a.m. and end school at 2:05 p.m.

The district polled students, teachers, parents and community members to determine the best option for when students should start classes: keep current start times; switch middle and high schools' start times; or delay all schools' start times by 30 minutes.

Of the 2,800 people who answered the question, 1,590 said not changing times was ideal.

Charlie Kennedy, who teaches at Manatee High School, was a proponent of pushing start times back at high schools. After reviewing the survey results, he suggested having one high school pilot the change and see how it goes before making a final decision.

"We've gone through a lot of changes the last few years," Kennedy said. "But maybe we can try this at one school and see how it goes."

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said that changing one school's start time would disrupt school bus transportation, because multiple schools are tied together in bus service.

Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter wanted to know whether students starting later, and getting more sleep, would boost academic performance.

District staff members had no data that supported that claim. 

In other news: 

The Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation crafted a five-year strategic plan, which is aimed to boost jobs and revenue locally.

The organization's goals are to boost capital investments by $460 million, create 4,000 jobs, and bring 62 businesses and 11 startups to Manatee County by 2021.

 "We collaborate with government and nonprofits," said Sharon Hillstrom, EDC president and CEO. "We're a highly collaborative organization aimed at creating jobs, which generates local spending."

But to make the plan work, the EDC stressed the importance of working with the school board to create career-ready students.

"We need to think about the tools we need to produce those graduates who are career ready," board member Bob Gause said.

Hillstrom recommends k-12 schools create more programs to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, and develop trades and other workforce talents.

"When you look at the Millennial generation, 70% of them will want to start their own businesses," Hillstrom said. "We need to teach the fundamentals of starting a business and have more conversations about career pathways. Companies are crying for skilled workers."

She also recommended improving the district's website, which a consultant said looked out dated.

"Nobody knows what's going on in the school district, because we need to do a better job marketing," Hillstrom said. "The district's website needs to reflect the education happening here."

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