School Start and End Times, Budget Update

Dear Families and Community,

Thank you for engaging in our recent process to explore extending the middle and high school day by 30 minutes for more course opportunities and electives for students, and adjusting school  start and end times at all levels for the purpose of both an expanded secondary school day and a later start time for high school students.

More than 2,000 people responded to our survey on these topics. I also received feedback through my blog and during meetings with students, parents and staff. In summary, here are the main themes in the feedback we received:

  • A widespread majority strongly supported increasing middle and high school electives, and providing more holistic opportunities for kids.
  • Many high school students were concerned about an expanded school day and a later high school start time, while feedback from parents was more favorable.
  • However, more electives with an expanded middle and high school day and a later high school start time was part of a proposed package that involved adjusting school start and end times for elementary, middle and high school, all necessary due to transportation issues. While some families liked the proposed 7:45 a.m. elementary start time, a widespread majority of feedback strongly opposed this early start for elementary schools.

Therefore, we have decided to stop pursuing this particular start/end time option as a possible solution. School start and end times will remain as they currently are for 2015-16 and possibly longer, or until a viable solution emerges.

We still believe that an expanded secondary school day is a worthy educational investment and that a later high school start time is better for students’ health. We just haven’t landed a solution that works well for a majority of our families, recognizing that we’ll never get to a perfect answer that works for everyone.

Next Steps

To help with the pending new state-mandated high school graduation requirement of 24 credits for the class of 2019 and beyond, we plan to explore a state waiver that is available for 2 years. If approved, the waiver would allow us to keep the current 23-credit requirement until the class of 2021. (The current 6-period high school day for 4 years allows for a possible 24 credits, not including before-school course offerings.) This would be one strategy to open up an elective option for high school students.

We’ll take the recommendations from our High School Schedules Advisory Group and continue to work with staff to explore what options exist within the current 6.5-hour high school day to add more electives and course opportunities, and to offer flexibility for some students to start school later.

From the recommendations of our Middle School Schedules Advisory Group, we plan to move forward with processing the logistics of adding more staff to our middle school teams. As part of the proposed budget, this will help reduce class sizes at our middle schools, where they are currently the largest. A large amount of the feedback we received through the recent survey supported reducing class size as a priority. To continue class size reduction efforts districtwide, the state would need to make a major investment in this area. This is most likely to happen in our primary grades.

We are currently building a draft budget based on our Priorities for Progress, which were developed and continuously refined based on input from staff, families and our community. The draft budget also includes requests for program enhancements and recommendations coming from our committees, which include broad representation of teachers, staff, students and parents. While the Legislature is still a long ways from adopting a K-12 education budget, we are confident the state will provide additional revenue for 2015-16. Our confidence is based upon the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision that mandates ample funding for schools. This is a hopeful budget year. While we don’t have enough information yet to make final decisions, it is apparent we will be able to hire more school staff for both general and special education in support of our students.

Please watch for updated draft budget highlights in early April and an opportunity to provide more feedback.

Thank you,

Greg Baker