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Shorewood considering school start time, calendar changes

Ideas include late start time and year-round schooling

Shorewood High School sophomore Olivia Holbrook (right) weighs in as (from left) Marie Schneider, Rachel Vesco, Debra Schwinn and high school junior Olajuwon Cawthon (far right) listen.

Shorewood High School sophomore Olivia Holbrook (right) weighs in as (from left) Marie Schneider, Rachel Vesco, Debra Schwinn and high school junior Olajuwon Cawthon (far right) listen.

Jan. 15, 2014

Shorewood — A conversation is beginning that could reshape the school day, and in a few years time, the school year itself.

Teachers, parents, and a few students met for the first time Tuesday as part of a newly formed committee which is considering changes to school day start and end times, schedule changes, and possibly even year-round schooling.

The impetus for their work, district Curriculum Director Tabia Nicholas said, is the body of available sleep research which suggests students should start later rather than earlier, and a number of parents who have expressed concern over the high school's 7:35 a.m. start time. From there, Nicholas said, complementary topics like scheduling and reshaped school year naturally became parts of the conversation.

While school start and end times could be changed for the coming 2014-15 school year, alterations to the school year itself would take longer.

"Structures of this magnitude take some time," Nicholas said. "If we're looking at the calendar, we're looking two or three years out."

The committee will meet again in early February before reporting to the district curriculum committee and later a School Board "big idea" meeting on Feb. 18. Parents should keep an eye on the district's website in the coming weeks for a community survey composed of questions from the committee.

The 'seventh hour exodus'

Currently the high school day begins at 7:35 a.m. and ends at 3:07 p.m., which according to Nicholas is a later end time than most area high schools.

The late ending, said high school reading specialist Marie Schneider and high school social studies teacher Debra Schwinn, oftentimes causes problems for student athletes who have to miss part or all of their last class period in order to make sporting events.

"It's deadly," Schneider said. "It's so unfair to make students choose between sports and extracurriculars."

"Even good students' grades are impacted by this seventh hour exodus," Schwinn added.

Lengthy lunch

Though the committee's first suggestion was to push back the high school start time to alleviate the sleep issue and end earlier to mitigate the sports issue, Shorewood High School's 50-minute lunch period — the longest high school lunch in Wisconsin — complicates the issue.

The lunch is lengthy because the high school's student clubs all hold their meetings during the lunch period, making it serve a dual purpose. To shorten the lunch period could mean sacrificing club meetings, yet if the length remains and the start time is pushed back, the school end time would need to be pushed back in turn or days would need to be added to the end of the school year to satisfy Department of Public Instruction guidelines.

High school sophomore Olivia Holbrook said that students generally don't support the idea of adding days to the end of the school year but haven't considered it in the context of a later starting time.

"I think a lot of this will be controversial, because you can't please everyone," Nicholas said of the various scheduling complications. "But it's worth a conversation."

Community members are encouraged to join the conversation by attending future committee meetings, School Board meetings, and the coming big idea meeting.

"The big idea meeting is an opportunity to have a public forum," committee and school board member Paru Shah said. "It would be an opportunity for everyone to come."

NEXT STEPS

Next committee meeting: 5-7 p.m. Feb. 11 in the coach's conference room of the high school athletic building

Curriculum committee: 5 p.m. Feb. 12 in the administrative building conference room

Big idea meeting: Time and place to be announced Feb. 18

School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Shorewood High School library

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