Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Committee identifies preferred option for later start time, but requests additional guidance and clarity from School Board about implementation
School Board plans to continue discussion at meeting on Sept. 24
At its meeting on Sept. 10, the South St. Paul School Board heard from member of the district’s Teen Sleep and Start Time Committee about the group’s findings and preferred options, although no formal recommendation was presented. While the original plan called for the committee to present its recommendation this month, the committee could not reach agreement on a recommendation because of what it felt were School Board parameters that were too vague and too many unknown variables still at play. Specifically, the committee said it needed additional guidance on two of the parameters outlined in the Guiding Change Document, approved by the Board last year, regarding financial and program impacts.
After months of research and options review, the committee, comprised of South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) staff, parents and administration, concluded its final meeting on Aug. 28 without formalizing a recommendation, although it did reach consensus on “Option E,” which includes a two-tier bus system with Kaposia and Lincoln Center both starting at 7:50 AM, and the Secondary School moving to an 8:30 AM start.
“It is clear from the prevalence of scientific research and medical data about what is best for student learning that Option E provides optimal school times for South St. Paul students,” said Liam Dawson, Kaposia fifth grade teacher and committee member. “The later time for secondary students aligns with what is known about brain development and adolescent sleep patterns, and there is emerging research that supports the benefit of including core content instruction earlier in the day — before noon — for elementary students.”
Yet while the committee agreed on what was best for students given research, the question remained about the $270,000 price tag that came with Option E and how that would be factored into the district’s budget planning.
“Not knowing what else in the budget may be impacted caused many of us to pause,” said Kris Weinfurtner, Secondary School math teacher. “What good is a later start time for my students if it means a dramatic increase in class size? We just need to have a better understanding of how the cost will be implemented and what else will be affected.”
The Board also heard about the concerns from parents, coaches and administration on the impact a later start time would have on after-school activities, particularly middle school activities. Additionally, committee members want to see additional study put into a new high school daily schedule that would remove the need for zero hour classes, which meet prior to the start of the school day.
“Having zero hour defeats the purpose of moving to a later start time,” said Dawn Kelly, SSPPS parent. “We would like to encourage administration to look not only at the start and end times of the day, but also how we can provide a daily schedule that better meets the needs of all students.”
Superintendent Dave Webb echoed the committee in the preferred options but felt that implementing it for the 2019-20 school year would be too soon given the unknowns about next year’s budget and how state funding may be impacted given this fall’s statewide election. “It was clear we would like to move ahead with Option E,” Webb said, “but the question is when. I just don’t think we can make it happen for next school year given the many variables out there.”
The School Board agreed to continue discussion about the committee’s findings and request for more clarity around financial and programmatic impacts. They are expected to discuss next steps at their Committee-of-the-Whole meeting on Monday, Sept. 24 at 5:00 PM.