Elementary school students would start classes earlier and middle and high school students later under a proposal Bend-La Pine Schools presented at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The proposal will now go to the public for feedback.
The change is one of two options — the other is to keep the current schedule — and will be the center of a feedback process the district intends to roll out in April and last until the end of May. The process will allow students, parents, staff and other members of the community to comment on the various pros and cons of both options.
The current class schedule is 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for elementary schools, 7:45 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. for middle schools, and 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for high schools.
The proposed schedule runs from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for elementary schools, 8:45 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. for middle schools, and 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for high schools.
The district will engage in a public outreach campaign including multiple public meetings and online and in-person surveys. The meetings will also include an informational presentation explaining pros and cons about both options that can also be found on the district’s website. The campaign is designed to gather feedback from parents, students, staff and other members of the community.
“We are saying broadly that any parent or any organization is invited to submit comment, but we are not looking to tweak anything about those start times,” said Superintendent Shay Mikalson. “I want to be clear that this isn’t a public vote. We are trying to communicate where we’re trying to go.”
The survey results and data gathering of this process will take place over the summer, pushing any possible changes in start times back until the 2019-2020 school year.
While some public comments were made about the board stretching out the timeline for the process, Mikalson and board members stressed how complex the situation was in regard to transportation plans and other potential factors that affect nearly 18,500 students and their families.
“If we are going to do this, we want it to be wildly successful,” Mikalson said.
Public feedback will be accepted from April 9 to May 31, when each school hosts a public meeting to present a PowerPoint and answer any questions from the community. The district will also schedule meetings for Spanish speakers in at least one elementary, middle and high school.
“I would love for this to start tomorrow, but I’m perfectly fine with this timeline,” said board member Julie Craig.
The likelihood that the community could scramble to implement any changes before the 2018-2019 school year is very low, said Andy High, school board chairman. While there are various options that parents of elementary students might use for child care during the current schedule, those same options now flip to the afternoon.
“There might be families that can stay home and make this work, but we have to think about working families too,” he said. “To me, the proposed schedule makes sense, but it’s not easy to just change everything. This could impact traffic in the morning and extracurriculars in the afternoon. We need to talk to so many people — including our own staff — before it can be implemented.
Meeting dates are still to be determined. All relevant information will be posted on the district website.
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