The Mounds View School Board is continuing its process to change start times and discussed three possible scenarios designed by administration at its Nov. 15 meeting.
In the previous step of this process, the board gathered information through an online survey administered by Thoughtexchange. Participants identified top priorities and themes through the survey’s open-ended questions. Re-occuring themes included the overall support for the proposal to change start times, support for student success and wellness, as well as concern of what this potential change may have on before- and after-school activities. Based on the results, the board directed administration to develop start times options for public consideration.
Supt. Chris Lennox presented these three potential options at the school board meeting. Lennox said that these options were created based on the considerations that the board had previously established, as well as operational limitations and realities.
These factors included transportation, student connectedness and opportunity, financial sustainability, and flexibility.
When analyzing transportation, Lennox pointed out that geography is a factor for the district. He said that to efficiently route the bus system, the larger high school routes must be picked up first, followed by middle school, then elementary school neighborhood routes.
“In order to do that, we have to put some space in each of the start times,” Lennox said.
Administration designed geographic grouping pairs of elementary schools to allow for transportation efficiency. Each of these pairs will have the same start time. Pair one is Bel Air and Sunnyside Elementary, pair two is Island Lake and Turtle Lake Elementary, and pair three is Pinewood and Valentine Hills Elementary.
Lennox reminded the board that Mounds View schools also provides transportation services for non-public schools and that these services will be coordinated as the process moves forward.
According to previous feedback, concerns for before- and after-school activities arose. Lennox said that because of these concerns, no secondary school will be placed in the latest tier of start times.
“We did try to keep them earlier, so we wouldn’t impact those student connectedness opportunities,” Lennox said.
Lennox also said that all options have kept school activities in mind, and that activities directors said that they can make any of these options work.
“They’ve assured me that if we make the decision in a timely manner, they’ll be able to figure all that out and find spaces, and take care of our kids and our programs,” Lennox said.
Another factor was financial sustainability. Lennox said that the option of only moving high school start times was originally considered, and it was discovered that this would be cost prohibitive because of transportation efficiencies. He noted that all three options presented are all financially sustainable and equal in cost.
The final factor was flexibility. He said that it is possible to shift any tier of these start times options, but it would require an equal shift for the other two tiers.
Lennox said that dozens of different scenarios were considered, but administration narrowed down to three options, with the main goal to push high school start times to a later time.
The first scenario is the blue option. This option would have Irondale, Mounds View High, and Edgewood Middle School begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m. The next tier is the other two middle schools, Chippewa and Highview, along with Bel Air and Sunnyside Elementary to begin at 8:40 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., followed by Island Lake, Turtle Lake, Pinewood, and Valentine Hills to begin at 9:20 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The orange option includes Irondale, Mounds View High, Bel Air, and Sunnyside to begin at 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. All three middle schools to begin at 8:40 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., and Island Lake, Turtle Lake, Pinewood, and Valentine Hills to begin at 9:20 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The purple option has all three middle schools beginning at 7:45 a.m. to 2:25 p.m., followed by both the high schools and Bel Air and Sunnyside at 8:35 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., then Island Lake, Turtle Lake, Pinewood, and Valentine Hills at 9:20 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Each option is laid out in detail at moundsviewschools.org/starttimes, as well as graph examples for each option that map out what a school day would look like for each school. These graphs include practice blocks for after school activities for middle and high schools.
Students, parents, and community members are able to provide online feedback through Dec. 2 or attend the in-person feedback forum on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Highview Middle School at 2300 7th St., New Brighton.
Chair Amy Jones said that she wants families to look to the future when making decisions on which options they support. She said that rather than just thinking about the 2017-18 school year, it’s important to look at these options through a lens with a long term vision.
Following feedback on the options, administration will bring a recommendation to the school board at the Dec. 13 meeting.
Contact Sarah Burghardt at email@example.com