Start time changes get the green light
The Lake Oswego School Board approved the Start Time Task Force's recommendation to make class start later for secondary schools and earlier for elementary schools — but unions still have a chance to weigh in.
At its Monday meeting, the School Board voted 5-0 to change start times, an issue that inspired contention at previous meetings, with elementary parents saying that an initial proposal offered the opportunity for teens to sleep more at the cost of younger students. Fears centered around younger kids heading to class during darker times of day.
But this Monday evening, parents did not testify against the proposal and, in fact, everyone The Review interviewed afterward had glowing things to say about the changes and how the proposal came together.
The Task Force had made adjustments to accommodate concerns elementary parents have brought up during and after Task Force presentations since this past December. Local parents told The Review they support the latest schedule that the School Board approved (pending union approval).
"It's the right thing for the teens," said Amy Mai, who has two children attending Westridge Elementary School.
Michael Musick, executive director of school management, headed up the Task Force, which created the recommendation the board gave the greenlight to. The Task Force sought to tackle the problem of sleepy students, in particular teens, who get behind the wheel. But moving the start time forward for middle and high school students pushed back the time for elementary school students because there are 46 routes that buses must run within a certain time frame. Musick said he was pleased with how the plan came together.
"This is an exciting moment for our kiddos," Musick said.
Despite the adjustments, the upper grades still will be enjoying more shut-eye. Grades 9-12 currently start at 7:35 a.m., whereas junior highs begin at 7:55 a.m. and elementary schools start at 9:10 a.m.
Musick pointed out that times still must be negotiated with teachers' and classified staff's unions, "and considerations must be made for instructional time calculations."
"The committee is recommending that LOSD create bus and bell schedules that increase the opportunity for our teens to get up to one hour of additional sleep," Musick told The Review on Tuesday. "To achieve this goal, the high school and junior high start time would need to move to 8:25 a.m. at the earliest."
The proposal, now contingent upon the unions' approval and instructional time calculations is to have the following schedule, that would be effective in 2017-18: — High schools will start 10 minutes earlier than initially proposed and are scheduled to begin at 8:25 a.m. Class will end at 3:30 p.m.
— Middle schools will start 10 minutes later than originally proposed and will begin at 9 a.m. Class will end at 3:56 p.m.
— Elementary schools will start a full 30 minutes later than previously proposed and will begin at 8:30 a.m. Class will end at 2:55 p.m.
"To meet the safety bus stop concerns needs of our elementary students, our elementary bus routes will be limited to thirty minutes and bus drop-off time will be no later than 8:15 a.m." Musick told The Review. "These parameters will provide our schools with a target goal of 8:30 start time."
The first bell would ring 10 minutes before each start time.
The district's Beginning Strings and Elementary Orchestra program for strings musicians (violinists, cellists, violists) in Grades 4-5 will meet in the afternoons instead of the mornings.
"There are so many issues here with athletics and buses and extracurricular activities, and I don't know how you did it," School Board member John Wallin told Musick.
How the proposal came together
The Task Force had been studying the issue of students getting insufficient sleep, and met from September to December. The committee, made up of staff members at all school levels and parents, created its recommendation to address the problem and submitted it to the superintendent for review. The recommendation was presented to the School Board in January and then revised before the School Board voted to approve it this week.
The Task Force's materials say younger children need nine to 11 hours of sleep per night; and teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. But, less than 33 percent of high school students get eight hours of sleep.
Research has shown a direct correlation between "sleepiness" and: health, safety, productivity and academic performance, the Task Force's materials say. With excessive sleepiness in teens, other issues that arose included the increased risk of self-harm and car crashes.
"The deciding factor was health and safety of students and the needs of all families," Task Force member Ken Weber said.
Another issue is that teens are physiologically predisposed to falling asleep between 10 p.m. and midnight, according to the Task Force's research. So, teens have trouble going to bed earlier to get enough shut-eye, but children are able to turn in earlier without as much difficulty.
Wallin said "the science is irrefutable" on the topic of teens needing more sleep.
"We're giving them an opportunity here," he said.
Mai, a trained biologist, said she has supported the proposal from the start, and believes in it because she has read similar research herself on teens' sleep patterns. And Mai's son, third-grader Mitchell, is interested in the new schedule as well.
"I think it would be good for me when I'm older," Mitchell said. "I'm used to getting up around 6, so I think it would be good."
Mai smiled. "He gets up at 7, but OK," she said.
Kati Radziwon, parent of a 2-year-old as well as a third-grader and first-grader at Lake Grove Elementary, said she is pleased with the proposal. She said she felt that the administration listened to elementary parents when they asked to make the start time for K-5 a little later than the first recommendation. Radziwon helped make that happen after her spouse suggested a closer examination of bus schedules, no easy task when the district has 46 routes.
"We got the (initial) proposal, and I felt like there was more we could do, and we just needed to be creative," she said.
The Task Force met with elementary parents to determine how to adjust the bell schedule.
Weber, who raved about the help of Radziwon and the other parents, called the School Board's vote a "fantastic decision." Weber, who has a second-grader and pre-K child at Forest Hills Elementary, said the proposal took into account input from families in all 10 school buildings.
"I think the community should celebrate not only the decision but also the process," Weber said.
Has the district changed the bell schedules before?
The bell schedules have gone through various iterations during the past few decades alone. The minutes for LOSD School Board meetings in the 1990s show evidence of a few changes, although the reasoning behind the scheduling alterations is not completely clear from the old documents.
Records show that the school schedule was changed in the 1991-92 school year to "be in compliance with the instruction time requirement while allowing for transportation with the current bus fleet." Whether that meant an earlier or later adjustment was unclear, but the schedule for that school year is similar to what is will be in 2017-18 for junior high and elementary school. One difference is that elementary school back in 1991-92 was K-6 and junior high was Grades 7-8 instead of K-5 and 6-8 as it is now:
The 1991-92 times were:
— High school, 9-12: The start time was 7:45 a.m., and class was dismissed at 2:52 p.m.
— Grades 7-8: The start time was 7:50 a.m., and class was dismissed at 2:45 p.m.
— Elementary School, K-6: The start time was 8:40 a.m., and class was dismissed at 2:40 p.m. for younger kids and 3:!5 p.m. for older kids.
Interestingly, the time for the high schools is almost the same as it will be next school year.
A schedule found in the district minutes in 1996-97 showed start times that were five minutes earlier for junior high and high school and 10 minutes earlier for elementary school than the current schedule for this school year and the past several years. This indicates the existing schedule appears to have come about through gradual adjustments over time.
Also at the School Board meeting:
— Board members got the chance to review the language for the $187 million bond slated for the May 16 ballot before district staff took it to the Clackamas County Elections Division office to file. (The final filing date for all candidates and measures is March 16.) The bond, Measure 3-515, officially was filed on Tuesday, March 14, and it is now available online for viewing at www.clackamas.us/elections/documents/20170516/3_515.pdf.
— The board, with a 5-0 vote, approved the appointment of Will Nolan to the Lake Oswego Legal Budget Committee. Nolan carries a bachelor's in Finance from the University of Wyoming and a master's in finance/accounting from Gonzaga University. He also possessed 18 years of experience as a financial adviser and/or chief investment officer and had a decade of experience as a credit analyst and sales manager in the banking industry. His experience and education were deciding factors in his selection. The district received four applications for the open position, which has a term through June 30, 2019. He replaces committee member Jing Jiang.
The other candidates were highly qualified, but "we were also impressed by Mr. Nolan's experience in the non-profit financial sector," School Board Chair Sarah Howell said.
— The calendar for the Budget Committee was approved. The committee will have an orientation on April 19, and the group will meet May 3, May 17 and possibly May 31. There will be a hearing on the committee's recommended budget on June 5 or June 12, and the budget is scheduled for adoption on June 19.
— Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck also reminded the public that the open enrollment period for the district began March 1 and goes through April 1 for the 2017-18 school year. An unlimited number of students will be accepted for incoming grades 6-8 at Lakeridge Junior High School, and there will be no limit to the number of students in grades 9-10 who are accepted at Lakeridge High School. There will be 10 students who will be accepted for incoming Grade 9 at Lake Oswego High School. Through open enrollment, a student can apply to move within district or to another district without paying tuition.
For more information, visit tinyurl.com/LOSDOE17-18.