Mounds View School District high school students will soon be able to hit the snooze button starting in fall 2018.
The Mounds View School Board unanimously approved a change in district start times at the April 25 meeting. The board prioritized choosing a later high school start time, with the final choice to begin at 8:35 a.m.
“Over the course of the last several years, we’ve had very consistent start time conversations,” Board Chair Amy Jones said. “We have revisited our options over time and really delved into how this could work best for our district and the impact it would have on our families.”
Jones said it is board policy to revisit start time parameters every three years. In 2014, a research team at the University of Minnesota released a report that examined the impact of later high school start times and its effect on health and academic performances. The study prompted many school districts around the metropolitan area to rethink their start times, with many conversations spurring from early high school start times. The Mounds View School Board was able to connect with many school districts on this issue who were considering a similar adjustment, which led to the decision of the board visiting its district’s start time issue a year early.
In fall 2016, the board began gathering community feedback by administering an online survey. Over the course of the process, they gathered information through emails, in-person meetings, PTA meetings and hosted a public forum.
Previously, the board had aimed to make a decision in February with implementation to happen in fall 2017. After receiving feedback from the community, the board decided to post pone the decision until spring, as well as implementation to the 2018-19 school year.
Jones said the decision to post pone was meant to allow families to have more time to adjust to this change, as well as the district to work through logistical details at each individual site level.
“We’ll have administration work with principals and teachers to identify the best way to move forward and help families adjust to the decision and also have time to modify their personal schedules,” Jones said.
District administration worked diligently through many scenarios and considerations through this process. Two main factors included transportation of the district’s buses and athletics and arts facility usage. Working with the athletics directors, transportation and finance staff, administration revisited the parameters many times over the course of the year before the board narrowed in on two options at the April 11 meeting.
Both options targeted an 8:35 a.m. start time for the high schools, which was a main focus for this change. According to the U of M research study, there are clear benefits for students whose high schools begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. Currently, both Irondale and Mounds View High School begin at 7:25 a.m.
Mounds View High School principal for the coming fall Stephanie Bruggers said she had previously been part of a district that was moving in a direction of a later start time, so the issue is very known to her.
“The research is very clear around a later start time for high school students, and I believe it is the right thing to do,” Bruggers said. “I believe our school board and district leaders did their due diligence around researching the topic, listening to the community and sharing information.”
In the new format, all middle schools in the district will run from 7:45 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., a 20 minute earlier start time.
“In an ideal world we would all love to figure out a way for both our middle schools and our high schools to start after 8:30, but we have to look at operational realities and how to move ten thousand students across a large geographic area,” Board member Sandra Westerman said. “We have to have tiers.”
Under the new start time plan, the district will be switching from a four-tiered bus system to a three-tiered system. The smaller tier system will require more buses in a shorter window of time. The district will be building these additional costs into its budget year after year.
Jones said that within the last year, the district renegotiated its bus contracts.
“We’ve actually expanded and instead of working with just one bus company, we’re working with a few, so we have more flexibility,” Jones said.
She said the district will also revisit parameters of kindergarten bus routes. Currently, the district utilizes short buses to transport kindergarteners separately from elementary students.
“In the future, we are looking into utilizing [the buses] more effectively because right now, they only serve kindergarteners. We may use them to serve routes that have a smaller amount of kids or kids that live furthest away from our buildings,” Jones said.
Jones said the board recognizes that community members will have differing opinions on the start times change and there is no such thing as a “perfect plan.”
“I think its really important for people to understand that this was not an easy decision,” Jones said. “We spent an incredible amount of time trying to figure out different permutations of transportation systems and how this would work for all of our buildings.”
The start time decision was unanimously voted on by the board.
“We felt that we chose the option that had the least amount of impact on the most people, while prioritizing high school start times,” Jones said.
Administration will now move forward with the planning process and will be providing an implementation progress report in January 2018. The report will include logistics of before- and after-school activities, daycare services and extracurricular activities including athletics and arts. Jones said the board will also continue to follow its own policy of revisiting the start time parameters every three years.
To view the new start times diagram and to learn more information, visit www.moundsviewschools.org/starttimes.
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]