An expected compromise on school start and stop times is set to go before the Oregon school board next month.
After the Oregon School District’s proposal to unify the start and end times across all schools met with concerns from some students and teachers last fall, the school board formed a work group in December to further study the issue and make recommendations.
With that mission nearing its end, some members of the 20-person group – comprising of OSD teachers, administrators, parents and a bus contractor – said they are prepared to compromise on a complicated issue.
The group has pored over data about start and end times, and the effects on students not getting enough sleep, or on extracurricular activities and jobs. Work group member and district parent Aaron Zitzelberger said there’s no perfect solution.
“I don’t love the idea of my kids having to get on a bus any earlier, but I understand we have high school kids getting on buses very early in the morning and perhaps staying in school a lot later than we would like and being on on the bus a lot later than we would like,” he said.
When the board formed the work group, administrators presented eight options to consider and held three listening sessions late last year to gauge the public reaction. From those, it was apparent that extending the school day and starting school earlier for some elementary schools was problematic.
The group has held three work sessions over the past several weeks, and its final one was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18. At that meeting, it’s expected to come up with recommendations for the board.
The move to alter school start and end times was prompted by the district’s new K-6 elementary school, Forest Edge, which will open in September. The district’s last time change for schools was in 2000, when Rome Corners Intermediate School opened.
District deputy superintendent Leslie Bergstrom, a member of the group, said members are working well together and sharing ideas freely.
“I have every confidence we will meet the school board’s charge to the group of producing 1-3 recommendations, one of which must not have additional transportation costs above the administration’s working plan,” she told the Observer in an email.
Group member and district parent Heather Garrison said she originally got involved in the issue because she was concerned with the significantly earlier start time for elementary schools. She said there was a significant learning curve for most group members, who went over many sets of statistics and opinions on the advantages of starting and ending school days earlier or later.
What they’re finding, she said, is that there are no obvious solutions.
“There are all these moving parts, and when you change one thing, five other things change with it,” she said. “But I still feel very strongly because of the research and trends of what other school districts are doing, we can find a solution that everybody’s going to have to give a little bit.”
Zitzelberger, who was a member of the district committee that worked on the new K-6 boundaries for next school year, said while it’s been worthwhile, it’s been a tough process trying to figure out what’s best for everyone.
“You’re trying to maximize the amount of good things going on, but you know there’s going to be an effect on everybody,” he told the Observer.
Garrison said she’s looking forward to the group’s final meeting, and coming closer toward some answers.
“I think this meeting will really focus on separating the options that aren’t going to work from the ones that are, so the school board can ultimately make the decisions,” she said. “Everyone is looking at what is best for the kids, what’s best for the teachers, what’s best for a community on all levels — now it’s just, ‘What does that mean?’”