Inver Grove Heights school district hones in on potential new start times


courtesy Inver Grove Heights Schools • Inver Grove Heights Schools is looking at possibly switching the start and end times of its elementary and secondary schools. This would put the start time of secondary students in better alignment with research that shows later start times are better for their sleep habits. The change, which would need to be approved by the ISD 199 school board, wouldn’t take effect until the 2019-2020 school year.

submitted graphic • Both the Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul school districts are looking at changing their start and end times. Such changes would put each district in better alignment with other districts in their conference that have pushed high school start times later into the day.

South St. Paul school district begins its own look

 

With school almost out for the year, students are looking towards a summer off. However, two area school districts are already looking ahead towards the 2019-2020 school year. As Inver Grove Heights Schools ISD 199 hones in on start times for its schools, South St. Paul Public Schools is just getting started at evaluating its options. 

 

Getting here

ISD 199 started seriously looking at new start times in 2016, and Superintendent Dave Bernhardson said that start times became an interest to the school board back in 2015. Currently, Simley High School starts at 7:40 a.m., and ends at 2:30 p.m. Inver Grove Heights Middle School runs the same times as the high school, and the elementary schools run from 8:30 a.m., to 3:10 p.m.

A recommendation headed to the school board says the high school and the middle school times should be swapped with the elementary school times.

At a May 15 community conversation meeting, Abel Riodique, start times committee facilitator, said the start and end time review committee reconvened in January 2018 after taking a break to gather more information. Riodique said something that came up once talks restarted was how changes would affect elementary schools.

The district partnered with the Minnesota Sleep Society to gather more information on how school start times and sleep affect younger students. 

There were also questions of what transportation routes would look like and how activities times would be changed.

Riodique said the district is looking at a school start time change to do what’s best overall for all students in the district.

“There’s a strong body of research that supports that later school start times actually benefit our kids,” Riodique said — when it comes to high schoolers, sleeping in has a number of positive effects on learning.

Other districts within ISD 199’s sports conference have changed their start and end times, Riodique said, so impacts would align with various activities. 

Of the 11 Dakota County school districts, eight have moved towards or are in the process of looking at changing school times. 

 

The best option

Riodique said the committee had criteria when looking at options included maximizing student learning, maintaining student safety, efficiently utilizing district resources and maintaining and/or enhancing student opportunities. 

“In the course of our conversation, we did realize that transportation does play a major consideration when considering district resources,” Riodique said. 

Riodique said some options were decided to not be feasible. This included a single start and end time for all schools. A number of respondents to a survey done by the district were really looking for an 8:30 a.m. start time for both elementary and secondary schools. While this would be ideal for timing, it would not be efficient use of resources due to the number of busses needed all at once.

Another option was pushing all start times an hour later. “We felt the longer delay would impact too many families,” Riodique said. 

At the May 15 meeting, those in attendance were asked to list positives and negatives of the current start and end times. The positives included that no change at all means schedules won’t be affected. Older kids also would get home before younger siblings and could help with childcare. 

A challenge with the current model includes early start times not aligning with sleep research for teens. 

Riodique said sleep research shows the average bedtime for teens is around 10:45 p.m. To get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep, a 7:30 a.m., start time doesn’t allow them to get that many hours of sleep.

The board is being recommended to flip the start times. This would put elementary students in school from 7:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and secondary schools would be in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. Riodique said it was determined 8:30 a.m. would be the optimal time for high school students to start. 

Those in attendance said some positives of the flipped schedule included aligning times with sleep research, which also shows elementary-aged children can adapt to earlier start times, while teens will be more alert driving to school.

Concerns included older students not being home after school to help with siblings and the impact it could have on work schedules.

The school board will take action on the recommended time changes later in the summer or fall.

 

South St. Paul begins discussions 

South St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Dave Webb said the district has started a comprehensive study of start times.

“It was this year that we decided that we would do a deeper dive and engage the whole community to determine our best next steps,” he said. 

Webb said the district does a lot of partnering with ISD 199, and many involved thought they could save some money and align with many of the national sleep specialists and sleep studies if South St. Paul schools conducted its study at the same time. 

If the school board decided to change start times, it wouldn’t be until the 2019-2020 school year.

Webb said there is always the option to not change anything regarding start-end times, though the district’s committee on the matter has brainstormed 10 options so far.

“The committee has been working to look at every possible scenario that they come up with that would be a good benefit to kids,” Webb said. 

The district is looking at what option best aligns with research recommendations and how it would impact things like athletics and activities. Webb said there are a number of before- and after-school childcare programs that could be affected. 

Webb said the district is hosting open houses with different national speakers on sleep studies and school start times. 

A school board decision on whether or not to change start and end times is expected this fall. 

 

More information on both districts start/end time reviews can be found on their respective websites at www.sspps.org/domain/275 and www.isd199.org/district/start_time_review.

 

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

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