Manatee County School Board votes to allow high schools to start at 7:30 a.m.

BRADENTON -- In the fall, Manatee County high schools will have the discretion to start classes at 7:30 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m. -- as long as the school's advisory council also signs off -- after the Manatee County School Board unanimously approved the proposal Tuesday night.

"This 15-minute rollback to allow for seven periods is something that has been wanted by several of the high schools," board member Dave Miner said. "It allows them options, kind of local control. Most people, including me, are in favor of that."

Palmetto, Bayshore and Southeast high schools will likely take advantage of the option, said Cynthia Saunders, executive director of secondary schools. Advisory councils at Southeast and Bayshore have already approved the move, and Saunders said Palmetto will likely approve it next week.

Lakewood Ranch, Manatee and Braden River high schools will likely stay with the 7:45 a.m. start.

District officials proposed the earlier start time to allow high schools to move to a traditional seven-period set

schedule as opposed to the block schedule high schools use now. Block schedules gives students longer class periods, which works best for science labs and the arts, but a seven-period day helps ensure students see their teachers on a daily basis.

Palmetto High School was the driving school behind the proposal to switch to the seven-period day.

Bayshore and Southeast high schools plan to have some block days and some seven-period days.

Manatee, Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools will stay on block scheduling.

The additional 15 minutes is necessary for schools planning to switch to allow students time to get to class.

Board member Charlie Kennedy clarified the board was not mandating high schools start at 7:30 a.m. but was giving the option to do so.

In addition, the board approved promoting Sandra Ford, head of the district Food and Nutrition Services Department, to the newly created position of chief support services officer. The position proposed by Don Hall, now interim superintendent, was approved at the April 14 meeting.

The chief support services officer will report to the deputy superintendent of operations and supervise the heads of food services, capital projects, maintenance and operations and transportation. The approximate salary is $117,000.

The assistant director of food and nutrition services will serve as the interim director and Ford's former position will be posted to find a permanent replacement, Hall said.

The board also heard all six Manatee County high schools can offer driver's education courses next year through a grant. Each high school will have a car and a driving instructor.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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