South St. Paul School Board ticks closer to start time decision

After months of study and committee discussion, the South St. Paul School Board took steps at its Sept. 24 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting towards narrowing down a possible new start- and end-time schedule for the 2020-2021 school year, directing district administration to take a closer look at three options.

Superintended Dave Webb said at the meeting that a stakeholder committee had a preferred option, which would have the secondary school start at 8:30 a.m., and end at 3:10 p.m. The option would have both elementary schools, Kaposia and Lincoln, start at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:25 p.m., and would require an additional six buses and cost $270,000 a year in order to get all elementary students to school at the same time.

Webb asked board members at the start of the discussion if there were still any unanswered questions they may have.

Board member Kristie Hood said there is no information about legislative changes that could have an effect on the board’s decision with respect to budget contributions from the state.

Board member Wendy Felton said the question about what happens to zero hour still needs to be answered. With the schedule as it is now, students at the secondary school have a zero hour, which meets prior to the start of the school day. 

Felton said when she looked at the options, specifically the preferred one that would flip the start and end times between the elementary schools and the secondary school, she wondered if it made financial sense for the district.

“You’re looking at $270,000 a year. That’s four or five teachers. Can we afford every year four or five more teachers to cover up that cost to make the busses align?” she asked.

 

Research and sports

Board member Sarah Winslow-Brewer said if the best option for everyone is the flipped times but it also costs the most, the board has to look at the research data that it has.

Researchers have found that high school students need more sleep and benefit from later school start times. Winslow-Brewer added she thinks that if the board keeps the current schedule it’s doing harm and not following good public health policy. 

Hood said if other districts are looking at changing their times, the board needs to examine how those changes are going to impact South St. Paul’s programming schedule. 

“If everyone else is already going to be changing, if we’re going to have to adjust to everyone else anyway, [it’s] something to be considered,” she said.

Winslow-Brewer said she would like the board to work with the Minnesota State High School League and other schools in the conference to reduce the number of students who have to leave class early, as a result of the time shift, to participate in activities.

Board member Nikki Laliberte said she didn’t think it was necessary for the elementary schools to start at the exact time. “We haven’t had the same start time at elementaries in South St. Paul for years,” she said.

Winslow-Brewer said other schedule options are not off the table, which still have later start times for older students. 

The board decided to have district administration examine three schedule options and build a timeline with its recommended option.

 

- Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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