Officials vote to change school start times in Osceola County

VIDEO: Officials vote to change school start times in Osceola County

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — School start times will change in Osceola County, and some parents are not happy about that.

Some parents stormed out of the Osceola County School Board chambers as soon as members voted 4-1 in favor of changing start times after a two-hour discussion during a meeting Tuesday evening.

The changes would alter some start times by several few minutes, but other start times will change by almost an hour.

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The School District of Osceola County said it wants all high schools to start class at 7:20 a.m., all elementary schools to start class at 8:20 a.m. and all middle schools to start class at 9:20 a.m.

Superintendent Debra Pace said standardizing the times will save the district about $2 million in transportation costs.

She said she wants to use the savings to pay teachers more money.

The new times will take effect at the start of the next school year. Click here for a full list of Osceola County school start times.

Pace said the proposal has been in the works since 2016, but most parents at the meeting said they recently learned of the plans.

"We don't get an email," a parent said at the meeting. "I found out about this last week by a concerned parent -- someone that's actually in the crowd. They emailed me, and I was like, 'Wow. I didn't know about it.'"

Dina Kortuem, a St. Cloud Middle School teacher, said she feels as if she was left in the dark.

"You sent out a survey about the school climate," she said. "Can't you send out a survey that asks me if I want to come to school at 9 a.m.? It's not that hard."

Parent Greg Filak said he left the meeting feeling upset.

"I'm disappointed that they just moved right ahead despite all the concerns that were brought up tonight," he said.

The district said the change will also help with its shortage of bus drivers. If approved, the change would take effect next school year.

"It's a tough call. It really is," said Arby Creach, director of transportation for the district. "After-school care, before-school care, is an extra burden on parents, but when you look at the district as a whole you have to do what's best for all kids."

But not everyone in the county thinks the change is a good idea.

Christina Gerrity, owner and instructor at Celebration Arts Academy, said 99 percent of her clientele is made up Osceola County students.

She said the change in school times could cost her business big-time.

"We are going to lose a lot of our business with a lost hour. The kids can't hang on for that long. We are expecting too much of them now," she said.

Business owners are not the only ones concerned about the new start times. Parents have also started a petition against the change. So far, it has more than 1,000 online signatures.