A potential change to Oregon School District start times has led dozens of parents and teachers to voice concerns over what they see as possible negative effects.
As a result, Oregon administrators will take the next few weeks to come up with a revised plan.
After hearing an Oregon Education Association statement opposing the change and nine parents speaking against the proposal before a presentation Monday night, Dec. 16, the board decided to take time to further study the issues. The new plan will be discussed at its Jan. 13 meeting.
“The next steps are to continue to sift and winnow the information that has been prepared and reflect on comments from parents and staff,” district communications director Erika Mundinger wrote in an email to the Observer Tuesday.
The district’s plan was to change elementary school start dates to coincide with the opening of the newly named Forest Edge Elementary School in fall 2020. All elementary schools would have started at 7:45 a.m. (from 8 a.m. in Brooklyn and 8:05 a.m. at Prairie View and Netherwood Knoll) to help sync up all K-6 students’ schedules and better line up timing for bus routes so rural students’ rides are shorter.
“We’re trying to match the appropriate length of the school day, because we’d like all of our students to have similar experiences at the elementary level,” district superintendent Brian Busler told the Observer last week. “We’re trying to make an educational-based decision.”
But many worried even a 20-minute change would have negative effects, and that was clear in three listening sessions the district held this month, attended by more than 100 people in total. The early time change was a top concern in those meetings, Busler said.
A group of “concerned parents, teachers and community” started a petition on Change.org that had 329 signatures by noon Dec. 17. The group “strongly recommends” keeping the start time of 8/8:05 a.m. for elementary school students and ending at 2:50/2:55 p.m., with a 6 hour 50 minute day.
The new plan would have added 20 minutes to the day at PVE and NKE and 15 minutes to BKE.
“These 20 minutes are critical for young children’s sleep and play time,” read the group’s website. “We understand the delay for middle/high school start times as research shows this to be beneficial for development and mental health, however this should not come at the expense of our younger students.”
OEA president Laura Stoller read a prepared statement from the group, saying “many of our teachers believe that lengthening the elementary school day is neither necessary nor beneficial,” citing DPI recommendations of 1,050 instruction hours for grades 1-6, compared to the 1,261 under the proposal.
“While we understand the desire to create a consistent experience for students at the 5-6 grade level, we do not believe that lengthening the school day for all K-4 students is the appropriate solution,” the statement read. “The current length of our elementary school day is in line with surrounding districts, while the proposed length is significantly longer than most neighboring elementary schools.”
An additional concern among elementary teachers with lengthening the school day is the potential decrease of prep and collaboration time.
“With students in the building longer, that would mean a decrease in time to work together, planning and preparing for our learners,” the statement read. “While we understand the value of a later start for secondary students, we remain concerned about the proposed start time at the elementary level and how that impacts the emotional, academic and social learning of our youngest learners.”