Board to discuss start times

By Bryan Richardson

A discussion involving the switching of school start times will be held at the USD 383 Board of Education meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Robinson Education Center.

The start times hearing, to which the public will be permitted to contribute, is expected to begin about 7:30 p.m., although that can change depending on the flow of the meeting.

Currently, the starting and ending times are from 7:40 a.m. to 2:57 p.m. at Manhattan High, from 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. for the middle schools, and from between 8:25 and 8:40 a.m. to 3:35 and 3:50 p.m. for the elementary schools.

The conversation about switching the elementary and secondary start times is being addressed due to various national studies that show later school times for teenagers improve attendance and academic performance.

The earliest bus routes — those in rural areas —under a new 7:40 a.m. elementary school start time would be between 6:10 and 6:30 a.m. Routes in town would start around 6:30 to 6:45 a.m.

Secondary start times of 8:40 and 8:45 a.m. would have in-town routes running between 7:45 and 8:05 a.m.

Most elementary schools have their earliest arriving students before the potential new start time of 7:40 a.m. Only students at Amanda Arnold (7:45 a.m.) and Woodrow Wilson (8 a.m.) don’t arrive before that time.

Overall, the district has an average of 73 percent of its elementary students arrive 15 or more minutes early to school with most schools having at least 80 percent. Bluemont only has 20 percent of its students in this category. Amanda Arnold and Marlatt are around 50 percent.

The discussions are likely to center on switching the start times rather than using identical later start times for elementary and secondary schools due to drastically increased transportation costs.

The district would need 32 additional buses at the cost of between $2.5 and $3 million as well as the extra personnel and an estimated $3 to $5 million that would be needed to address the facility needs in order to accommodate simultaneous start times at all schools.

Board members have noted that downsides to switching the start times are increased classroom time missed by high school students traveling for school activities, and the dark and cold winter mornings that elementary children will have to deal with waiting on the bus.

The board will decide the start time issue during a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

The board meeting will also include a discussion on Tribe Time, MHS’s proposed advisory period, and the Bishop Stadium artificial turf project.

Tribe Time is back on the agenda a month after the board asked Principal Terry McCarty to provide more detailed information on the program. MHS students and faculty advocated for the board’s acceptance of the advisory time at the Sept. 5 board meeting.

If approved, Tribe Time would begin Sept. 26 and continue every Wednesday throughout the school year.

The advisory period would focus on three initiatives: anti-bullying/safe schools, the connection between education and employment/career readiness, and individual student performance.

The MHS Booster Club has proposed a five-year fundraising campaign to get synthetic turf at Bishop Stadium.The surface has a 10 to 15 year life expectancy. Of the state’s 32 6A schools, only MHS maintains a natural grass field surface.

The administration’s proposal is for the board to accept a plan that involves the district contributing $200,000 over five years and getting private donations for the remaining cost, approximately $645,790.

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