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High school start-time debate returns in Greenfield

Dec. 18, 2012

Greenfield - Shock that Greenfield ranked in the lower third of other Woodland Conference schools on the state's new high school report card has led to renewed interest in a later start time.

"There's lots and lots and lots of research that shows kids do better if they start later," said Greenfield School Board member Cathy Walsh on Monday.

About a half dozen years ago, the high school went to a 7:10 a.m. start time to save money, but if a later start time will bring academic achievement up, the schools should consider changing, Walsh said.

Advocate for later times

Dolores Skowronek, who headed an ad hoc committee that recommended a later high school start time last year, originally sounded the call this fall after the state Department of Public Instruction school report cards came out Oct. 8.

Speaking at Monday's board meeting, Skowronek said research shows that early high school start times don't promote achievement, wellness or success.

The School Board this week decided to gather more information and take the topic up at its Jan. 21 meeting. That discussion is likely to also focus on middle and elementary school start times as well. There is a feeling that elementary students would do better with an earlier start.

"I'm happy to hear they are willing to explore options that really haven't been talked about before," Skowronek said after the meeting.

The options she referred to is a proposal to have study halls for students who are repeatedly tardy. That wouldn't cost anything but would help students struggling with the early morning starts.

Others said all students need such flexibility, noting many who arrive on time are exhausted.

Making adjustments

The School Board didn't approve a later start time last year mainly because of the more than $200,000 in additional busing costs.

But Walsh said the schools can afford at least some additional costs because it has ended every year with a surplus.

Other factors in not approving a later start were concerns that students getting out of school later couldn't get to athletic events or co-curricular activities or to jobs.

But Walsh noted the landscape seems to be changing. With some high schools starting later, games might start later also, she said.

She views the objection about difficulty getting to games and jobs as excuses. Greenfield is believed to have the earliest start time in the state and students at other schools are able to participate in sports and clubs and get to jobs, Walsh said, so she believes Greenfield students can. too.

School Board member Don Carlson noted that student athletes already miss part of their last-hour classes. Before he supports later start times, he said he would want to find out ow much more they would miss. He also wants to know if added costs other than busing are involved.

Schedule considerations, too

The Jan. 21 discussion may go beyond start times and go to scheduling.

Superintendent Conrad Farner said he would like to look into more flexibility in the school day for everyone and maybe even having eight periods instead of seven.

Carlson suggested a zero-hour gym or aerobics class first thing in the morning so students are more alert for morning classes.

Block scheduling such as the middle school does also is a possibility at the high school, Walsh said.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Greenfield School Board consideration of later start time for Greenfield High School and possible start time adjustments at other schools and potential changes that would make the high school day more flexible

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21

WHERE: Greenfield Administration Center Board room, 4850 S. 60th St.

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