A proposed schedule highlighted by later start for Northfield Middle and High School students has been unveiled.
Under the draft presented Monday night by Superintendent Matt Hillmann to the Northfield School Board, high school students would begin their school day at 8:45 a.m. and end the day at 3:45 p.m., an approximately 55 minute later schedule than today. Middle-schoolers would start school at 8:35 a.m. and end at 3:35 p.m., an approximately 40 minute later shift from the current schedule. The elementary day would remain the same. The possible changes could begin for the 2020-21 school year.
Under the changes, buses would begin picking up rural students at approximately 7:20 a.m. The district is reviewing how it will accommodate family schedules, whether the special education preschool transportation model will still work as it currently does, how much additional class time student-athletes would miss to attend games, how professional learning community hours will be impacted, whether flex scheduling can work with a later schedule and when career and college readiness curriculum can be taught.
Hillmann said although student-athletes will miss more school time with a later schedule, a possible benefit to the change is students would feel more rested for school and other school activities.
In discussing the change, Hillmann is citing medical research showing that teenage internal clocks become later until the person reaches their mid-20’s.
Winona is another Big Nine Conference school that has adopted a later start. Hillmann noted the district is not aware of many schools of similar size that have started the school day later.
School Board member Noel Stratmoen said although some families could accommodate a later start, that poses a problem for some families that is “nearly socially impossible,” because of parent work schedules.
School Board member Rob Hardy said from his experience student-athletes are good time managers, and he expressed optimism that the number of quality teacher-coaches in the district will enable student-athletes to continue to be successful despite possibly having less time in school when traveling for activities.
But fellow School Board member Tom Baraniak said he was not “totally sold” on the change.
“This change in the release of melatonin means that a teenager isn’t being difficult when they say they are tired,” he said. “It also means that they aren’t fully awake during the first class period of the day.”
A committee of teachers, administrators and parents met last spring to review the research. In June, Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Grace Hanson presented the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Education. The draft schedule was then formed to analyze how the later start could work.
The district plans to share additional information with staff and hold at least two community sessions next month to hear concept plans and provide feedback on the proposed schedules. Hillmann also recommends the district hold a work session in November to trigger a deeper discussion about the possible change. He plans to make a recommendation to the board regarding the possible schedule change in early December.