Mounds View Schools hits “snooze” on changing school start times

No need to lose sleep over possible changes to school start times for Mounds View Public Schools District 621.

Following a board study and a report at its Oct. 21 meeting, the district’s school board decided not to make any changes to the current schedule, with the idea of pushing back high school start times a nonstarter.

Board Chair Jon Tynjala explained that every three years the district looks at its start times with an eye on whether to alter them for the proceeding three years. If the board were to act, it would do so with one year of lead time.

Tynjala added that many recent news stories have focused on teenagers’ extra need for sleep, and how school start times can affect that need.

In recent years, Minneapolis and Edina schools have gone with later high school start times.

In a presentation to the board, member Jonathan Weinhagen said sleep science confirms teenagers operate and think better with more sleep. However, a host of other factors, he said, monetary and otherwise, outweigh the potential benefits of a later start for high schoolers.

“I think there was consensus across the board that the science is there: teens would benefit from a later start time,” Weinhagen said, noting the board had consulted information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.

Many board members noted, though, that any schedule change would have a “ripple effect.”

“You talk about one consideration, and it has an impact on four or five things,” Weinhagen said.

Most basically, changing high school start times would alter the starts for middle and primary schools, something the board said it did not wish to do. After-school activities and sports would similarly be affected, the board said, as would scheduling for the use of community facilities.

School busing schedules would need to be altered, Weinhagen said, with some potential plans topping out at an annual cost of $2 million in additional transportation spending.

Weinhagen also said better rested students in other districts did not seem to perform better academically.

“The board was surprised to see a lack of evidence of improvements,” Weinhagen said.

“You can’t just tweak it: 15 minutes won’t make a difference...you have to make a significant change,” board member Bob Helgeson said. “I just don’t see that doing this achieves the multitude of goals that we have in mind.”

“We’d just stay up an hour later,” board member Sandra Westerman said, repeating what she’d heard from parents regarding a schedule change. “I think we’re back to keeping things as it is.”

Per board policy, school start times will be revisited again in three years.

—Mike Munzenrider

 

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