The Mounds View School Board wants as much feedback as possible from community members about start times for schools at all levels. At the Sept. 20 school board meeting, Chair Amy Jones announced that the board will send out the first step of surveys to all parents, staff, and high school students at Mounds View public schools.

It is board policy to revisit the subject every three years, but after continued raising interest from community members, the decision was made to look into the matter a year early. Vice Chair Jon Tynjala noted at the meeting that when the board made the determination to keep start times as is two years ago, they did not reject the sleep time evidence that was presented by University of Minnesota researchers. He said at the time, the logistics of the district prevented the board from changing start times.

As the first step in this multistep process, the board has decided to administer an online survey through a system called Thoughtexchange. The survey was sent out on Wednesday, Sept. 21, to about 15,000 individuals. By administering surveys to a wide set of constituents, the board is trying to understand how the community feels about certain considerations and to what degree they are important. The specific considerations that were discussed at the meeting were: options that are consistent with medical evidence; options that are consistent with the schools’ mission, vision, and values; options are financially sustainable; bus route lengths remain similar; student connectedness opportunities remain the same; options that consider community impact; recognition that no school should start earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 9:30 a.m.; options that allow access to both after and before school care; Irondale and Mounds View High School have the same start time; buses serve students school-level peers only; and options that allow for current alignment between the K Center and home elementary school times.

Jones said that the board wants as much feedback as possible. She said that the board recognizes that not everyone will want to come in and speak in person or send a personal email, so they decided a survey would be the best option to gather information from a broader set of constituents.

The survey should take in between five and 10 minutes. The questions on the survey are meant to prioritize the considerations that are listed above, as well as bring about new questions and ideas to the board. Jones said that the feedback will be consolidated and themes and trends will be identified. After the first round of feedback is gathered, another survey will be administered that features responses from other people in the community.

“We’ve heard from a fairly small group of parents that all have one particular perspective and we really want to open the door so we can hear from everyone,” Jones said.

Tynjala talked about the board’s current projection for the decision-making process at the meeting. He said after feedback from the community is processed, the board will consider options in conjunction with administration. More feedback about the options will be requested, then administration will make a final recommendation and the board will make a decision some time in early 2017.

The board is considering implementing the potential change as early as the fall 2017 school year.

Jones shared many ways that community members can follow along with the process at the meeting. There is now a start times link on the Mounds View Public Schools website that will be constantly updated as information is gathered. This link can also lead to the survey if an email has not been received or if a member of the community wants to take the survey. Start times will be on the school board’s standing agenda through fall and winter, as well as including the discussion at school PTA and PTO meetings. Information will also be included in e-newsletters. A feedback forum will be held in December so people can share their thoughts in person, although they are still encouraged to take the online survey.

“We have the opportunity to really hear from our community and our stakeholders and we think that’s important. In particular as an elected body, its really important that we reflect what our community wants and I know that they have high expectations for us as a school board and as a district and this is one way that we’re trying to broaden the community’s voice in our decision making process,” Jones said. “We really appreciate the community walking through this with us, and providing feedback and taking the time to reach out to us. And if at all possible we encourage as many of those 15,000 individual people as possible to complete the survey and let us know how they feel about a potential start time change.”

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