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Meetings may delay high school start time

New daily start times could be coming to Superior High School, but the change is expected to have a larger impact on teachers than students.

The Superior School Board moved forward a proposal Monday that allows SHS to put a new meeting schedule in place for teachers. To accommodate the schedule, classes would start six minutes earlier four days of the week and 21 minutes later Wednesdays.

Janna Stevens, Superior school district administrator, said the idea originated with teachers.

Currently, the teacher meeting schedule allows for 30-minute sessions each day before the start of classes. Stevens said teachers felt that amount of time wasn't enough to "really dig into anything" and was especially problematic for professional learning community meetings, held twice a week.

Staff members at the high school were asked to vote on a potential change, and 86 percent supported the idea of one longer learning meeting each week instead of two shorter meetings.

If the change is approved, the meetings would run 7:30-8:22 a.m. Wednesdays, and meetings could be scheduled 7:30-7:55 a.m. all other days.

"There may be some bumps in the road," Stevens said, but she believes the high school has a good plan in place.

To implement the plan, the administration recommended a waiver to the section of employee handbooks outlining teacher work days.

Under handbook guidelines, teachers must begin their work day 45 minutes before the start of school. Up to 30 minutes of that time may be set aside for necessary meetings.

The proposed waiver eliminates the 30-minute daily cap and replaces it with a limit of no more than 150 minutes per week.

If the waiver for the high school receives final approval from the School Board on Monday, it will go into effect for the current school year.

Kent Bergum, SHS principal, no instructional time will be lost as a result of the changes. Students would actually gain seven minutes over the course of a week, due to a shift in class length.

According to the plan outlined Monday, classes would run 48 minutes four days a week. On Wednesdays, when teachers hold their longer morning meeting, classes would be reduced to 44 minutes.

Classes would begin at 8 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, classes would start at 8:27 a.m.

Students would not arrive later on Wednesdays if they travel by bus, Bergum said, but they could do so if using their own transportation.

Kearra Thimm, one of two student representatives to the Board this year, approved of the proposed change. She said it's frustrating for students when they can't get tutoring or access labs because teachers are tied up in meetings two mornings a week.

With the new plan, Bergum said, teachers would not be locked into meetings on Mondays, Tuesdays or Fridays. They would be encouraged to use those mornings to focus on students and tutoring.

Teachers would still be required to attend one 52-minute learning meeting on Wednesdays and a 25-minute department meeting on Thursdays.

The proposed waiver moved forward by the School Board on Monday applies only to SHS. The measure as first written applied the entire school district.

Several members of the School Board objected to that idea.

Robert Morehouse said he was uncomfortable approving a blanket statement, even if no other schools had plans to utilize the waiver yet.

"If you tell people they can drive 70, they'll drive 70," he said.

Morehouse also asked how the waiver would impact elementary schools, a concern shared by other Board members.

"Children need to see their teachers in the classroom when classes start," said Christina Kintop, Board vice president. If meetings run long, assistants could be left to cover for teachers in the morning, she said.

The Board voted unanimously to amend the proposal to cover the high school only. The measure will be up for final approval at 6 p.m. Monday at the Superior school district administration office, 3025 Tower Ave.