Preferred option of change in school start and end times

Some Spring Lake Park District 16 schools are slated for new start and end times come September, although exact times have yet to be determined, while high school students will, most likely, be able to grab about 35 more minutes of snooze time.

The school board earlier this month heard a presentation on transportation and start time options.

The report, presented by Amy Schultz, District 16 director of business services, and John Franke, Spring Lake Park High School associate principal, identifies a preferred option for school start times next fall.

A change in times is needed because of the district’s growing enrollment, particularly an increase of 600 students in the last four school years.

Also, a change in school start and end times positions the district for a projected 20 percent increase in enrollment over the next eight to 10 years.

In addition to enrollment growth, a look into time changes was spurred by the transitioning of Woodcrest Elementary School into a districtwide Spanish Immersion site next fall. (SI students are slated to be moved from their current program site at Westwood Intermediate.)

Sleep pattern studies

In planning the preferred option, the district checked out research by Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota, who conducted studies on sleep patterns and adolescent needs.

She found that high school students with later school start times experience an increase in learning, fewer behavior concerns and increased attendance rates, especially among at-risk students.

Her study found that adolescents need 9.25 hours of sleep a night to be fully rested.

“By the way we were doing our student start times, they were getting less than seven,” Schultz said in the presentation.

The district’s transportation study began in 2010. A decision was made to wait until the master facilities and programming study was conducted and modifications were determined.

Starting in January, a design team of administrators met to look into transportation changes. They reviewed start times of local metro area schools, districts offering such specialized programs as Spanish Immersion and a study on sleep habits and their relationship to learning.

In February, a parent-input team began a series of meetings. They looked into various options and offered feedback.

Overall, the teams developed and studied more than 25 scenarios and, following a guided change document, they narrowed options to 12, four and one.

Preferred option

The final preferred option they arrived at changes start times less than 10 minutes from this year’s start times for the district’s K-8 students. It also moves the high school start time from 7:35 a.m. back to between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m. The day would end for high schoolers at 2:55 p.m., rather than its current release time of 2:30 p.m.

“This preferred option results in minimal impact for the majority of our students and families, while positively addressing research demonstrating the benefits of a later start time for high school students,” according to the district’s report.

The preferred option calls for Woodcrest starting at the same time as the district’s K-3 schools.

Among options reviewed in the transportation study were to bus Woodcrest’s SI students with high school students. But the move would cost the district an increase of $500,000 in transportation costs, Schultz said.

Busing SI students with Westwood Intermediate students would result in increased transportation costs of $400,000.

The information was presented to district staff and parents at an informational meeting in mid-April.

District 16 uses Lorenz Bus Services of Blaine for regular to and from school bus service for students, while Voigt’s Bus Service of Fridley transports special education students. Both companies are used for extra curricular busing and field trips.

A final recommendation for a change in school start and end times will go before the school board for a vote at its May 14 meeting. The changes are slated to begin when students return to school this fall.

District 16 serves about 5,300 students in Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.

Projected 2013-14 school start and end times for schools

As final transportation routes are determined, times could change by five minutes in either direction.

Times have not been finalized, according to the District 16 website.

Westwood Middle School     7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Spring Lake Park High School     8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

Westwood Intermediate School     8:35 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

Woodcrest Elementary Spanish Immersion     9:10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Northpoint Elementary     9:20 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

Park Terrace Elementary     9:20 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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