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      Columbia school officials debate start times

      Controversy continues to surround the debate over start times and bus schedules at Columbia Public Schools.

      School leaders held several meetings as they try to come up with a plan that is best for all of their students.

      School Board Vice President Christine King said that the original of plan of starting high school classes at 7:20 a.m. is not going to happen.

      Columbia school leaders said they will have to see some changes in start times during the next school year because their district will be bigger with three high schools, six middle schools and their elementary schools. They don't have enough buses or drivers to handle that load all at once. A school committee recommended a three-tier start time system with high school starting first, middle school second and elementary third. Now, it appears middle schools will go first, followed by high schools and then elementary schools.

      "We just have to make the decision and move forward," King said. "Everybody will adjust. Everybody will change. Down the road, it will be fine. We did hear loud and clear that 7:20 is too early of a start time. Weâ??ve all agreed that nobody will start at 7:20.â??

      King wants to have at least one more public hearing on the start time changes before the school board makes a final vote on the proposal at their work session after their meeting on February 11.

      Columbia school officials said their earliest possible start time would be 7:40 a.m.