Green Bay school board discusses school start, end times
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – At its Monday, May 4, virtual meeting, the Green Bay school board discussed changing the start and end times of its schools with Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA) Region 7 administrator Jeff Dickert.
“It was a very detailed process,” said Dickert of the CESA 7 task force which completed the study. “Since the 1990s, there has been minor tinkering, but school start times remain largely as designed then. There has not been a questioning of this design for approximately 25 years.”
He said research was done, including the proper amount of sleep students need with differing ages.
“The studies show a significant increase in sleep duration – even with relatively small delays in start times of 30 minutes – generally correspond to improved attendance, less tardiness, less falling asleep in class, better grades and fewer motor vehicle crashes,” Dickert said.
He said there are additional factors in deciding start times, including co-curricular activities, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction minute requirements, federal after-school programs, food service times, parent and sibling schedules, student work, teacher contracts, tradition, traffic congestion and busing.
“We were pleased with the number of people – parents, students and staff – we heard from in the Green Bay schools,” said Dickert. “We had about 2,800 parents, more than 2,000 staff members and about 3,000 students give their input.”
Based on 14 face-to-face meetings, a study of 80 research documents and more than 8,000 survey responses, two recommendations were brought forward.
Scenario A would see high schools begin at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m., moving the start time about 40 minutes later than where it’s currently at.
Middle schools would begin at 8:10 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m., while the elementary schools would be split into two groups – group A would begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:33 p.m., while group B would start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:33 p.m.
Dickert said scenario A is more bus friendly and end times are better for after-school activities.
In scenario B, the two elementary groups would remain the same, while the middle schools would begin the day 5 minutes later at 8:15 a.m.
The biggest change would be in the high schools.
“With the second scenario, the task force recommended an 8:30 a.m. start and a 4 p.m. ending time for the high schools,” said Dickert. “It honors the sleep research for high school students and would have a tighter busing schedule. Ending times would be in some cases – mainly spring sports – a challenge to after-school activities.”
He said if any additional minutes would need to be added due to snow days, etc., every effort should be made to do so at the end of the day, not the beginning.
“The task force realizes this will leave the school board with some additional work, but the members were adamant about moving both options forward,” Dickert said.
Finally, he said the board may want to do additional surveys and research.
The target for the implementation of the new start and end times would be the 2022-23 school year.
“There’s an opportunity to move on this, but it won’t be something we can take on (at this meeting),” said board president Eric Vanden Heuvel. “We should perhaps form a smaller, working group with some board members and staff to get together and bring something back to the board. After looking at everything, the group could come back together with thoughts on one scenario.”
Board member Kristina Shelton said doing a cost analysis of the transportation for each of the options is something she already heard needs to be done.
Associate Superintendent of Continuous Improvement John Magas also discussed the Head Start program.
“With the CARES Act, there is funding to run a Head Start summer school program, and we’d like to apply for those funds,” said Magas. “The program is to ensure kindergarten readiness and to allow summer school options for our Head Start students. We realize there might be things that hinder in-person participation, but we want to make sure we are applying for those funds.”
The Head Start program would begin July 20 and end Aug. 14.
“The program would benefit approximately 198 students and families,” Magas said. “It would be Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
In other news, the dress code policy will remain the same for the upcoming school year and be discussed next summer instead of this year.