District wants input on changes
If District 196 administrators hear the right things from teachers, parents and students in the next few weeks school days could look very different next fall at Rosemount schools.
Superintendent John Currie is in the process of taking comments on a number of proposed changes at district schools. From a later start time at the high school level to new world language classes for elementary school students there could be some significant changes on the way.
For now, though, it's all talk. Currie, secondary education director Mark Parr and elementary education director Julie Olson are in the process of visiting site councils around the district to explain the changes and gather opinions. The district hopes to have an online survey for residents ready by Oct. 13 at www.district196.org.
The later high school start time is the change that could have the largest impact districtwide. Research dating back as far as 1994 suggests teenagers' physiology causes them to fall asleep later. A later start time, Currie has suggested, could mean students are more alert and better able to learn when they are in class.
"I think every year someone will call me and say, 'Why do we start high school classes so early?'" Currie said. "This isn't as simple as telling everybody to go to bed an hour earlier."
But you can't just delay the start of the high school day. Starting high school classes later will mean adjusting schedules at other levels to accommodate busing. One proposal would move the start of the middle school day earlier and adjust start times at elementary schools, though no exact start times have been identified.
"It will have impacts on families in different ways. We understand that," district communication specialist Tony Taschner said. "We're trying to get at whether people think it's a good idea based on what they've heard (or) read about the research on adolescence and not being able to go to bed early."
An earlier start time could cause some of the same problems for parts of the middle school population as it does for high schoolers but Taschner said the need for additional sleep hits hardest after puberty.
First year Rosemount High School principal John Wollersheim said he's still trying to decide whether a later start time is a good idea for his students. He's gotten mixed reactions so far from teachers, students, coaches and parents at the school. There are concerns about what a later start time could do to schedules for after-school sports and for students' ability to hold jobs in the evenings.
"I think coaches are the most skeptical," Wollersheim said.
It's possible to make it work, though. Edina High School changed to a later start time in 1996 and has stuck with it.
"It's a change, but there's concerns if we don't change, too," Currie said.
Wollersheim and others at RHS should know more about the proposed schedule change after Parr visits the school's site council Oct. 8.
Moving school start times around could also lead to a slightly longer day at the elementary level and that could create some time for new world language classes. Currie said parents have long asked for the introduction of foreign languages at the elementary level.
"All you hear about language -- the earlier kids start learning a language the easier it is for them," Taschner said. "The benefits of a student having a number of years in a world language when they come out of high school are significant."
The district offers Spanish and Mandarin at its international studies magnet school at Diamond Path Elementary and some form of language lesson at its other magnet schools.
It's not clear yet what languages would be available but Currie said so far Spanish has been the most popular choice.
Taschner expects the district to make a decision on the proposed changes by December.