New OSD elementary school in Fitchburg

The planned opening of Forest Edge Elementary school in Fitchburg this August prompted the Oregon School District to adjust start and end time to better coordinate with all schools. 

A few months after delaying a decision on new school start and end times until March to gather more information, Oregon school board members have plenty to sift through.

The 20-member school start/end time work group presented its recommendations Monday night. The board will consider the recommendations, along with a parent/staff study due back this week, before an expected vote on Monday, March 12, to adjust start and end time at all district schools.

The district’s initial plan was to change elementary school start dates to coincide with the opening of 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.

But those changes, in turn, caused some unforeseen scheduling issues for some students, staff and parents. After hearing concerns about potential negative effects, board members decided they needed more information and commissioned the task force comprising parents, staff, administrators and the district’s bus coordinator.

District deputy superintendent and task force chair Leslie Bergstrom said during the group’s last of four scheduled meetings Tuesday, Feb. 18, it narrowed down its options based on what issues people felt they could compromise on.

“We needed to know what were people’s really important items before we really evaluate our options,” she said. “We were starting to fill up a couple sheets on other ways we could think about this.”

The group recommended middle school and high school have different start times from other schools, with older kids limited to 7 hours and 15 minutes and done before 4 p.m. It also recommended K-6 students’ days be seven hours or less and start either 7:50 or 7:55 a.m.

More than a dozen people spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, all with opinions on the new start and end times.

Parent Jen Dailey said she was opposed to lengthening school for middle school and high school students, and she said on an hourlong ride on the bus after school during winter, it would be dark for most of the trip and push into peak traffic times.

“Safety is a non-negotiable,” she said. “You’re now messing with rush hour time.”

OHS student Jacob Bell said ending school later would force hundreds of students to start and end work shifts later in the day and also push back sports and extracurricular activities. He said if schools in other districts aren’t on a later schedule, athletes would have to miss ninth hour classes to travel to competitions.

Amanda Payne said she supported a 7:55 a.m. start time and a 6:55 day length for K-4 students.

“Every family is different, and what is convenient for one family won’t be convenient for another,” she said. “All we can do is make a decision based on what research shows is the best for the health and well-being of our children.”

Board president Steve Zach thanked the group for its time and efforts and said they accomplished exactly what the board had intended.

“The goal was to get the board a unified group of facts and data for us to consider that everybody was on board, and we have that,” he said. “We had eight options… which was a little unwieldy, and we did not have some parameters. We’ve got it narrowed down now; the rest is going to be on our shoulders to make that decision.”

Zach gave fellow board members a “homework assignment” – due by Sunday – to go through the recommendations and information collected by the work group, and bring questions to him to compile for administrator feedback.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.