Education Committee survey public opinion on later start times

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Taking the time: Junior Harry Borislow takes the online student survey regarding new school start times. The survey was administered to all students in grades 5-12 during homeroom on March 14.

By Melinda Xu and Reese Wang, Managing Web Editor and Staff Reporter

After the TESD Education Committee approved a new start times proposal, the school district has taken the next step in adjusting start times by evaluating public opinion on the topic through a public survey.

Three different surveys were given out to parents, students and TESD staff. The school district announced at the school board meeting on Feb. 25 and the public information meeting on Feb. 28 that it would be conducting an online survey to further assess public opinion. Although the district had been hearing public opinion throughout the entire process, the survey will help to give broader feedback on the proposal.

“Once we implemented the [email protected] email we got feedback that way and through meetings as well, but it doesn’t necessarily represent the whole community,” said Roberta Hotinski, head of the Education Committee. “That’s why I’m excited to be doing the survey, especially to be hearing from the students.”

For parents, the survey ran from March 8 to March 18. They received the survey by email and were reminded to take it 24 hours before the survey closing. Students grades 5-12 took the survey during an extended homeroom on March 14 while staff was given time to complete it from March 11 to 14. Both paper and online copies were available.

In particular, the district wanted to ensure the accuracy of results.

“All names are verified to ensure that respondents belong to the target groups of T/E parents, staff members and middle (and) high school students,” said Richard Gusick, superintendent of the T/E school district.

The responses will help the Education Committee decide whether to move on to the next step and recommend the proposal to the schoolboard for consideration.

“Administration will pull those results and put them into a presentation to be discussed at the April 11 Education Committee meeting,” Hotinski said. “At that meeting we will decide whether to recommend to the full board to go ahead with school start times.”

The proposal that is being put into consideration has high school starting at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 2:40 p.m., middle schools starting at 8:27 p.m. and ending at 3:10 p.m., and elementary schools starting at 9:10 a.m. and ending at 3:45 p.m.

This new schedule was first considered during the Education Committee meeting on Jan. 10 and was approved at the meeting on Feb. 14. When choosing a proposal to recommend, the Education Committee focused particularly on being able to implement it by the next school year.

“We decided to look at an option that could be implemented for the ’19 to ’20 school year because that was the most time sensitive and we have longer to look at more complicated options,” Hotinski said.

Due to the focus on feasibility by the next school year, the Education Committee made five assumptions while making their proposal. These assumptions were maintaining the current number of instructional minutes per day, defining 7:45 a.m. as the earliest start time and 3:45 p.m. as the latest end time, continuing to have three tiers of busing, maintaining current start time order and having standardized start times across level of school.

“The criteria listed on the Education Committee slides were endorsed specifically if the District were to adopt a change in time for the 2019-20 school year.  The parameters could be relaxed if we are talking about a longer implementation timeline,” Gusick said.

The Education Committee also considered many additional factors such as transportation, extracurricular activities, impact on families and cost. If the proposed start times were to be passed, the district would need 11 new buses to accommodate busing to both public and private schools that the district is required to provide transportation for.

“The new start time option for the 2019-20 school year would cost approximately $610,000 (more),” Gusick said.

If the proposal passes through the Education Committee and is recommended to the full school board, it will be voted on at the school board meeting on April 22.

Graphic by Reagan Gerrity, Design Editor