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Des Moines School Board Facing Opposition to Changing Class Start Times

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Des Moines School District is facing pressure to scrap plans to change school hours this fall.

In December, the school board delegated the responsibility of setting bell times to the superintendent. The new times, which are set to go into effect in the fall, will essentially start elementary classes 45 minutes earlier, and middle and high school classes roughly 45 minutes later.

Now, more than four months later, the Des Moines NAACP says it wants the school board to keep school hours the way they are. The organization rallied outside the school board meeting on Tuesday evening. NAACP members say the change will cause financial problems for families forced to pay for additional childcare, and they also have safety concerns.

"We are very concerned that with a 7:30 start time, children will be up in the dark, either catching a bus or walking to school. We understand that not everybody lives in a safe neighborhood, and so that's a challenge for us," said Iowa-Nebraska NAACP president Betty Andrews.

"After a great deal of research, public engagement, that included community conversations, parent surveys and community forums, the superintendent and his staff made a decision on bell times that they believe to be in the best interest of all of our nearly 33,000 students," said Teree Caldwell-Johnson, chair of the Des Moines School Board.

At the meeting, the chair of the school board said they should consider monitoring and evaluating how the new school hours are factoring into the overall outcomes for students.