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RPS approves new start times for schools, starting in 2022-23

The school day will be shortened by 9 and 10 minutes for high school and middle school students, respectively. Elementary students will have five minutes added to their day.

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Rochester Public Schools
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Students in the Rochester School District will notice a shift to their schedules, although it won’t happen until the 2022-23 school year.

The Rochester School Board unanimously approved new start times for the district, putting an end to a discussion that has been years in the making.

“This is a very serious decision and I think that’s why the board has taken a long time to do it,” Chairwoman Deborah Seelinger said.

Per the new schedule, the school day will last from 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for high school students, from 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m. for middle school students, and from 9:35 a.m. to 4 p.m. for elementary school students.

Prior to the pandemic, school would have started at either 9:05 or 9:10 a.m. for elementary students, depending on the building. And, it would have began at 7:40 a.m. for middle school and high school students.

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The change will shorten the amount of instructional time some students receive, according to an analysis of the new schedule. The day will be shortened by 9 and 10 minutes for high school and middle school students, respectively. Elementary students, however, will have five minutes added to their day.

Under a separate schedule change the board was considering, high school students could have lost as much as 36 minutes. Based on the district’s 173-day calendar, secondary students have to receive at least five hours and 54 minutes of instructional time, according to a prior presentation to the board.

Board Member Jean Marvin, as well as others on the board, commented that the discussion of changing start times has been ongoing for more than two decades. The most recent push for a change, however, happened in February, 2019 when the district formed a committee to look at the possibility.

Over the next year, potential start-time plans were developed. Staff members were surveyed; parents were engaged in a thought exchange.

The board members discussed various factors affecting the situation. Superintendent Michael Muñoz said it isn’t the district’s responsibility to provide child care. But, board members Cathy Nathan and Melissa Amundsen expressed concern for how the change could affect families’ day care situations.

“I’ve just heard too much from parents about how this child care situation and distance learning has really upended their family situation -- their finances, their jobs,” Nathan said. She added that she wouldn’t want to make that situation even worse.

The discussion originally focused on changing the start times for the 2021-22 school year. That changed, however, when Scott Sherden, executive director of operations, explained that they likely would need to reroute the bus system a second time once the new boundaries were drawn to accommodate the new schools being added to the district.

Transportation Director Jeff Kappers reiterated that as well.

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"It's a big puzzle to put together; basically, we'll have to put it together twice, potentially," Kappers said.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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