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Start time committee down to four plans

When the District 833 School Board meets Feb. 5, it will get four plans from the committee working on proposals to change the start and end times of district schools in order to start high schools later in the morning.

The four plans under consideration, Plan 15, Plan 16, Plan 17 and Plan Three vary from a 7:30 a.m. start to an 8:35 a.m. start for high schools.

Residents can attend either of two community meetings scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 9 at Park High School and Tuesday, Feb. 10, at Woodbury High School, to hear presentations and offer opinions and the school board is scheduled to choose one of the plans at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Some of the realities the start time committee had to consider include that the Gateway program for gifted and talented students, now at Royal Oaks Elementary School and moving to Bailey Elementary School next year, must start at the same time as the rest of the school because they have the same teaching specialists and lunch times.

Currently, Gateway students are bused from throughout the district with New Life Academy students to the New Life school. From there, they would be shuttled to Bailey. Because it's a long route, the earliest start time might be a hardship.

Terry Campbell, New Life principal, said he doesn't want a late start time, but said that 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. start times would be acceptable.

Crestview Elementary School and Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion are separate schools within the Crestview building. They don't have the same start times because of potential traffic snarl-ups. Also, it's best that neither start time coincide with the start of Park High School that is located on the same campus.

Committee members were split on whether there might be a problem with middle schools teachers who work at more than one school if all middle schools did not start at the same time.

They acknowledged there might also be problems with athletic coaches who teach in elementary schools, for example, and work with teams at the varsity level.

The district is also obligated by state law to bus students to private schools at no cost to the schools, according to Mark Porter, assistant superintendent for human resources and legal services.

The district buses students to St. Ambrose, St. Andrews, Pine Harbor, New Life Academy, Woodbury Lutheran and Hope Christian Academy.

Busing is also provided to the Math and Science Academy, Valley Crossing and Crosswinds, which are public schools.

Students who attend St. Elizabeth, Hill Murray and Transfiguration are bused to district borders where they are picked up by private school buses.

The start time committee, which has been meeting since October, heard from experts on adolescent sleep cycles who said, based on University of Minnesota research, that sleep is regulated by melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, which causes teens to sleep from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. Early school start times find them sleepy in early morning classes.

Committee members agreed and debated 17 start time plans to accommodate a later start for high schools.

The board said they would consider changing start times but directed that proposals have five start times and not increase transportation costs.

A year ago, the board directed transportation to move from four to five start times to accommodate lowering walking distances to one mile for elementary and middle school students and one and half miles for high schools.

At the December committee meeting, Superintendent Tom Nelson said he wants a time change if there is no additional cost.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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