News

Board again delays vote on changing school starting times

Posted April 19

— Des Moines public schools won't alter school start times for the coming academic year because of a delayed vote by the school board.

The board decided Tuesday to wait for a plan that addresses concerns raised by parents and staff at Smouse and Van Meter schools, which serve students with disabilities. The delay was the second in two weeks.

Under the proposal, elementary schools would begin at 7:50 a.m., roughly 30 minutes to an hour earlier. Middle schools would start at 8:35 a.m., which is 50 minutes later than they start now, and high schools would start at 8:30 a.m., also 50 minutes later. Smouse and Van Meter schools would begin at 9 a.m., about 45 minutes later.

About 250 students attend Smouse and Van Meter schools. About 20 teachers, parents and students from the schools attended Tuesday's meeting to protest a later start time, which they said affects after-school therapy or tutoring schedules.

"I have to pause and reflect on my purpose being here and how I utilize my voice, and my influence to represent everyone. Not just the majority, but everyone," said school board chair Teree Caldwell-Johnson. "That's the challenge we are faced with right now."

Officials say research shows the later starting times would better align with teenagers' natural sleep schedules.

Louisa Dykstra, a parent, said she supports the switch because of the benefit to disadvantaged students from lower-income, minority or immigrant backgrounds.

"We have to do what's best for the other 32,800 students," Dykstra said. "I was disappointed that they didn't show more leadership."

The board could revisit a decision this fall, but any changes wouldn't be made until the 2018-19 school year.

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