Should Whitnall Change its School Start Times?
The district is considering changes for all levels, plus the addition of late starts to allow for more teacher collaboration.
Too many unanswered questions and a desire from parents from more information prevented the Whitnall School Board from making major changes to the district’s calendar and the average school day.
The Whitnall School District brought a proposal to the board Monday that included changes in the schools’ start times, as well as adding late starts on designated days throughout the school year.
But the proposal was tabled until January because of too much uncertainty.
One element of the proposal called for the high school to change its start time from 7:15 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. The building would still open at 7 p.m. for a “zero hour” that could include student clubs or guided study halls that some students could be required to attend to get needed support and boost grades.
“One of the main driving forces was the 7:15 start for high schoolers was very early for teenagers to get up, be motivated and be listening,” said Thomas Vogel, the district’s Director of Special Education and Human Resources. “When you compare our start time to others, ours is very early.”
The middle school would move its start time from 7:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. and the district’s elementary schools would move from 8:40 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Another element of the calendar proposal incorporates more time for staff collaboration within grade levels and subject areas. All levels would utilize a late start to provide time for staff to share information and ideas.
The high school and middle school would have students start one hour later on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, or at 8:45 a.m. for the high school and 9 a.m. for the middle school. Elementary school students would start one hour later – or at 9:30 a.m. – every Wednesday.
According to Vogel, bus times would stay the same for high school students, even on late start days. Elementary and middle school bus times would change, but no costs were discussed.
Earlier this year, when the Greenfield School District tried to change it start times, the school board shot down the administration’s proposals because of additional bus costs.
Uncertainty surrounding what parents of elementary and middle school students can do with their children on late start Wednesdays were one of the key reasons the conversation was tabled until January.
Board member Stephanie Richter said late starts could cause inconveniences for working parents who have to be to their jobs before their child had to be at school.
“We don’t have critical answers to significant questions,” Richter said.
Jon Jones, a district resident, asked who covered the cost of the morning programs and why many parents had not heard of the potential changes prior to the meeting’s agenda posting.
Vogel said the district was working on arrangements with the YMCA, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department or district staff to cover the early-morning hours. Potential costs for those arrangements were not discussed.
“Right now the only question mark at the elementary level is what group are we going to go with,” Superintendent Lowell Holtz said. “I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with something where the kids are not home alone or standing outside waiting for doors to unlock.
“I’m not worried about the product. I think we have a good product. If we left someone out of the process, that was an oversight on my end.”
Board member TJ Anderson said adopting the changes now would give parents nine months to make arrangements by next September.
“It may be a change, but it’s a change for the better,” he said. “We’re going to have opportunities for our students in the morning and we’re going to give students available times to meet with teachers.”