Parents debate start, end times for schools
After bad weather postponed the last two meetings to discuss proposed changes to the start and end times of the school day in Alexandria District 206, they were finally held on Monday, February 10. The meetings gave parents and other members of the community a chance to hear the information that led to the proposal, ask any questions and voice any concerns.
The changes would mean earlier start and end times for younger students in Garfield, Carlos, Voyager and Woodland, and later starts and endings for middle and high school students. Miltona students would start and end their day a half hour later and Lincoln’s schedule would remain the same. (See chart.)
The proposal brought mixed reactions. Most parents attending the meetings seemed to be understanding of the committee’s reasonings for the proposal, but others brought concerns regarding daycare, transportation and other inconveniences.
A committee of teacher and parent representatives from each site, as well as administrators, were unanimous in their recommendation to support the proposed time changes. There were many factors that influenced the decision of the committee, including the number of first period tardies at Jefferson High School, but a large amount of it was based on research done by the University of Minnesota regarding the amount of sleep needed by a teenager. The study showed that the melatonin during puberty starts secreting at 11 p.m. and continues into the morning around 8 a.m.
The school day schedule also has to take into account the bus transportation available to the district. Since there aren’t enough buses to run on one schedule, the schools are separated into two tiers. To have one bus schedule, the district would need 10 to 12 more buses, costing $100,000 each.
During the first information meeting, which took place on January 21 at the district office, questions were brought up about the bus schedule, child supervision before the start of the school day, and whether or not there would still be transportation available on Wednesdays for students heading to church. There was also a concern from Miltona families regarding the late start time to which they would be switching.
The first parent meeting on Monday was held at Discovery Middle School. Parents expressed concern about how clubs and extracurricular activities would be affected by a schedule change and that the later start time would just encourage students to stay up longer at night. The fact that many students are early birds and are ready to go in the morning was also brought up, which led to the discussion of considering a “zero hour” in the future that would allow kids extra time in the morning to study, finish homework and take a second look at papers.
The second meeting that evening took place at Carlos Elementary School. A large concern was expressed about the students attending Miltona, specifically if there would be free care for the students who get dropped off early in the morning. The school board has already committed to allowing kids to be dropped off at 7:30 a.m. in Miltona if the new time proposal passes. Concerns also included students being able to be in activities and go post-secondary, how the change would affect preschools, daycare availability, and if the Carlos bus schedule would change. The bus schedule would be altered, but not by a significant amount. The Carlos bus schedule would change by about 20 minutes.
Superintendent Rick Lahn expressed his and the school board’s deepest apologies for any hardships the schedule change may cause families if it gets approved. He would like to remind the district that there is not financial gain for the district to change the times. He said the only motive for the change is to benefit students.
“We will make the decision based on what’s best for the students overall,” Lahn said. “It’s about the big picture.”
Lahn also thanked everyone for their feedback, which will be brought to the school board at its regular meeting on February 24. During that meeting, which is always open to the public, the school board will make the decision to approve or deny the time change proposal.