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District 833 parents miffed by possible school-start time change

If the plan to approve new school start and end times is approved by the District 833 School Board Thursday night, some parents are not going to be happy about it.

The board is considering changing start and end times in elementary schools and starting middle schools 10 minutes earlier to save money and balance the transportation budget. Elementary time changes and those of non-public schools would vary from five to 50 minutes.

Some parents said their work schedules will be disturbed by school beginning at 9 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m. as it's been since the fall of 2009.

"I'd have to change the whole schedule," said Laura Riesselman, who was picking up her two children from Kid's Club last week at Hillside Elementary School.

The schedule change would also upset after-school activities and rearrange bedtimes, she said, and her children would be very tired at the end of the school day.

Morning routines would change radically, said A.J. Trzebiatowski. He currently drops his daughter off at school on his way to work. With a new time, she would have to attend Kid's Club before and after school.

The School Board is saving money, he said, but costing parents more money.

His sentiment was echoed by fellow Hillside parent Parmesh Singh, who said he can't change his work schedule but would have to spend more for before-school care.

"A later start would not be good," added Debby Erickson.

Annette Volkert said she doesn't like spending the extra money. This is going to make it harder for families, she said.

With two children in Kid's Club, it's going to make it more expensive, said Craig Kuchenmeister, because he can't change the hours he works.

But fourth-grader Anthony Thomas, who also attends Kid's Club, likes the idea of starting school later.

"I'd have more time in the morning to get ready," he said.

The School Board will discuss the proposed school schedule change Thursday. The board meets at 7 p.m. at the District Service Center in Cottage Grove.

School Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd said she understands the concerns about a potential change but the district must cut costs.

"To balance the budget we need to find more than $900,000 in savings," Boyd said. "The proposed changes in start times could potentially cover more than half of the savings needed. There are other options being considered as well including walking distances, transportation for choice programs and additional efficiencies. All options have pros and cons, but we will need to combine several options to find the savings needed to balance the budget."

Board member Jim Gelbmann said it's "with deep regret" that he backs the efforts to balance the Transportation Department's budget by changing school start and end times, which help reduce bus costs.

"I understand changing school start times can be extremely disruptive to families," he said. "But changing start times to save half a million dollars per year is far better than the alternative."

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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