Students attending schools within School Administrative District 28 and the Five Town Community School District will begin their days later in the next academic year.

The Five Town CSD Board voted April 5 to approve later start times for Camden Hills Regional High School, Camden-Rockport Middle School and Camden-Rockport Elementary School.

The Five Town CSD represents Camden Hills Regional High School, which is attended by students from Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville, Hope and Appleton. SAD 28 includes CRMS and CRES. The SAD 28 Board previously voted to approve any decision made by the CSD board on the later start proposal.

The new schedule for the 2017-2018 school year will see students at the middle school and high school arriving at school a half hour later, at 8 a.m., rather than 7:30 a.m. At the April 5 meeting Superintendent Maria Libby said that these times represent when the last school buses arrive at school; the school day officially begins 10 minutes later with homeroom class.

Students at the elementary school will begin their day 15 minutes later, at 8:45 a.m. rather than 8:30 a.m.

Under this plan the middle and high school academic day will end at 2:45 p.m., and the length of the day remains the same. Although elementary students will start 15 minutes later, their school day will end 30 minutes later. Libby said each school will determine their own daily schedule, such as lunchtimes.

In addition, Libby said Mid-Coast School of Technology will delay its start time next year by 10 minutes, from 8:10 to 8:20 a.m., in order to allow transportation time for students attending from the Five Town CSD. High school students first arrive at Camden Hills and then board another bus to MCST.

The meeting was attended by a handful of people, but no member of the public offered comment on the new start times. During a discussion prior to the vote, Board member Faith Vautour expressed concern that under the new schedule students on athletic teams would miss valuable time from their fourth period classes.

"The amount of time that kids miss in the fall and the spring, I think we're glossing-over that too quickly. I think it's a major issue, particularly with our new schedules and the new classifications we have," Vautour said.

"I don't think we're glossing-over it," said Libby. "We've acknowledged it, we've met with the athletic department. There are ways that I believe we can actually shave off some of that lost time."

Libby said currently many sports teams are arriving earlier than is necessary, and that there are efficiencies, which could be enacted to change this. Additionally Libby said that one idea being discussed would involve switching third and fourth periods during the week. Libby said this could benefit student athletes because they wouldn't be missing the same class during each event.

She reminded the Board that this half-hour change in start time will not have the same impact that the initial, one-hour later proposal would have had. Currently an estimated 26 students per day miss a portion of their fourth period class. Libby compared this number to the remaining student population of nearly 700, who would be alert and more focused as a result of the extra half hour of sleep.

Libby said school bus stop locations will also be reevaluated in order to make bus routes more efficient, and ensure that students aren't waiting for buses to arrive. This will include eliminating some bus stops from routes and focusing on areas in Camden and Rockport that are within walking distance of a number of students.

"We're a rare district that provides door-to-door service for our high school students, and that's a place where we can gain some efficiencies." Libby said, adding that under the current bus schedule, students at Camden-Rockport Elementary are often waiting for their buses.

Peter Orne was the only member of the Board who did not vote in favor of the proposed change in school start times.

"I'm in favor of a later start time for students. My concern is that there's not a better idea out there that we might be considering a year for now. I do believe there's an opportunity for all the districts in this county to have a universal start time." Orne said that an alternative plan in the future might be "more palatable, and address some of the emotional issues that have been raised over the past months."

At a public forum in late February, Libby and the superintendents of SAD 40 and RSU 13 explored an alternate plan of starting middle school and high school classes later and elementary classes earlier. Middle and high school students would start around 8:30 a.m. and elementary students at 7:30 a.m. The presentation highlighted the benefits of additional sleep to the mental and physical health of adolescents.

At the forum many parents and family members expressed concern over elementary students who would be required to start school earlier, and argued in favor of a universal start time for all schools. Superintendents said that without additional buses, such a plan could never be actualized.

“The SAD 40 board voted to keep their current high school start time on March 30, so we know that Medomak's district is not going to change their start time,” Libby said. The RSU 13 School Board will discuss the issue in early May, “but it is unlikely that they will make a decision to effect a change for the next school year.”

"If we make this step first, and have good results… we don't want to keep waiting for other districts we can't control, and we've been trying for the past three years," said Board member Marcia Dietrich, who moved the proposal to a vote.

Board member Michelle Fong also offered strong support for the plan. "Seven-hundred-and-twenty-five students will benefit from this every morning. We're doing the best thing for the most students," she said.

In preparation of the later start times, Libby has met with local preschools and said options are being developed to make the transition as easy as possible for families with children in SAD 28 and the Five Town CSD.

"We will be working with both districts to address the concerns that people have expressed regarding the difficulties that may arise from this change — namely with athletics and before and after school child care," said Libby following the meeting.

"We are actively pursuing options internally and through the YMCA to help parents [adjust] with this change. We will continue working, to make this work the best we can for all of our families," Libby said.

Courier Publications reporter Louis Bettcher can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at