School schedules may get a wake-up call

Board considers two ideas, including later start times

Jan. 17, 2012

Greenfield - Starting school a half-hour later might eventually be reason for Whitnall High School students to celebrate, but the idea still has to win the blessing of the Whitnall School Board.

On Monday, the board will discuss that idea, along with a more controversial proposal - starting school an hour later twice a month at the high and middle schools and having the elementary school day end an hour early once a week.

Reversing a backwards approach

The proposal to start high school classes half hour later has the full support of School Board President Nancy Zaborowski.

Schools statewide have things backwards in starting the high schools early and elementary schools late, she said.

"When kids are little, they get up early and teenagers want to sleep late," Zaborowski said.

Starting later would mean students are more alert, especially in their first-hour classes, she said.

It isn't like school officials are thinking of letting high school kids sleep in, though. Instead of starting school at 7:15 a.m., they would start at 7:45 a.m.

Parents are the ones who asked for a later start for their high-schoolers, said Whitnall High School Principal Anthony Brazouski. When he became principal three years ago, that was the one thing he heard from parents.

"And the research out there is pretty clear that adolescents have a hard time starting early," he said.

So, he brought the idea of a somewhat later start to parent groups and teachers.

"We had very strong approval," Brazouski said.

A later start would not cost any more, but, to make it work, high school and middle school students would have to begin sharing school buses, he said.

A later start would not affect athletics, either, he said, noting that the school already prohibits practices between the 2:18 p.m. dismissal and 3 p.m.

Starting school later would give students more opportunities in the mornings, Brazouski said. The weight room, academic support center and library all would be available at 7 a.m., as would teachers, he said.

Another matter of timing

In what's proving to be a more controversial topic on school-day planning, district officials are considering the more dramatic twice-monthly and once-weekly schedule changes at its various schools.

The goal of those late start/early dismissals is to give teachers time to get together to compare notes on such topics as what approaches have been the most successful with various classes in covering material.

It was the early dismissal at the elementary schools that attracted the most comments at last week's School Board meeting. Parents said early dismissal would be inconvenient.

Zaborowski said this week that she was still undecided about the late start/early dismissal proposal.

"I heard parents say it would be a hardship," she said. But at the same time, she added, "Time for teachers to get together is very important."

If approved, the proposal wouldn't take effect until fall, giving parents a lot of lead time to make arrangements, Zaborowski said.

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