Mounds View schools gradually settling into new start times

Following a trend across metro districts and citing studies that say high school kids are better off with more sleep, the Mounds View Public School District pushed forward the start times for Mounds View and Irondale high schools beginning this fall.

Both went from starting at 7:25 to 8:35 a.m. 

“Kids at the high school level just need more sleep,” said Chippewa Middle School Principal Rob Reetz. He said the district cares deeply about mental health, adding there is a district-wide focus on pressures and student health in other areas, too, like grading. 

The high school start times shift rippled through to middle and elementary school start times as well, which caused everyone involved — thousands of students, receptionists, bus drivers, coaches, teachers — to readjust their schedules. 

More than a month into the new start times reality, reviews of the change are mixed — some schedules were shaken up more than others — though there’s a sense among the affected that the pros outweigh the cons.

 

Split in the Irondale halls

“It’s not that awful,” said Irondale senior Sami Freeman, sitting with a small panel of her peers mid-morning in a conference room facing Irondale’s front parking lot on Long Lake Road in New Brighton. “The end time is what’s irritating.”

The student council member said it doesn’t feel like she has an extra hour for sleep, just that her day has slid one hour later. 

With the hour lag in the morning, Irondale lets out later; last year school got out at 2:05 p.m., now its 3:15 p.m.

“I have the same amount of homework and sleep,” added Freeman. 

Senior Taj Best, in a sling from a football injury and with a frozen mid-season smirk, said he likes to stay later at school to be with his Knights teammates. He also said he feels more rested. 

“Last year I was falling asleep in first period every morning,” said Best. Now, he said he feels more awake and aware. “After a long game it’s nice to be able to sleep in.”

Freshman soccer player Brillina Bravo agreed, saying she is spent at night if the bus gets back from a game at 9 or 10 p.m., and needs time to unwind. Bravo said she uses the extra time in the morning to prepare for the day. 

The group agreed that, overall, Irondale students are mixed on the new times, but adjusting. The main sticking point across the group was lunch. 

“First lunch is pretty much breakfast,” said senior A’niyah Thomas. The first group of students to go to lunch eats at around 10:30 am, and the last group finishes up after 1 p.m. 

“I’m a football player, I’m hungry right now,” said Best. Thomas said only those with second lunch are okay — the group nodded and murmured in agreement. 

 

20 minutes doesn’t sound like much

“That doesn’t sound like much, does it, a 20 minute shift?” asked Katie Robertson in Principal Reetz’s office at Chippewa Middle in Shoreview. She has sixth- and eighth-graders at the school, which used to start at 8:05, but now starts at 7:45 a.m.

Robertson said 20 minutes is an eternity in the morning, and that her day starts much earlier and she has to be much more organized.

“We have a lot of late-roller-in people because they are not morning people,” said Lynne Arnold-Walker, who does attendance and administrative services at Chippewa. “But we are gonna get ‘em,” she said with an encouraging smile, adding that she’s noticed parents are gradually coming around. 

“Coming from a girl’s perspective,” said Robertson’s eighth-grader, Poppy, “I have to wake up and straighten my hair and pick out my outfit and do my hair and everything. Stereotypical girl stuff.” 

She said she has to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to complete her routine. “You guys may laugh, but it’s true. I need time to pick out this stuff,” said Poppy.

After their small snicker, eighth-graders Thor Berthiaume and LJ Manning said they like the earlier start time. 

“Waking up earlier is better because we get real world experience,” said Manning, reasoning that rising earlier trains him to get used to waking up early for a day job. Berthiaume agreed, and added that he personally likes the earlier time because they get out earlier.

Berthiaume runs high school track and cross country. If school still got out at 2:45 p.m., like last year, he wouldn’t make it on time for high school practice. Now that school gets out at 2:25 p.m., he can make it — so can middle school teachers who want to coach at a high school.

 

Is it breakfast 

or lunch?

Brynn Mills, also an eight-grader, said she likes getting out earlier, but going to bed earlier and waking up earlier is messing with her. The earlier wake-up time, regardless of the time she goes to bed, she said, makes her feel sleepy, and she doesn’t know why. 

The extra time in the afternoon was seen as a big plus to the students, as well as for parents like Robertson and Mills’ mother, Alicia Griffin Mills. 

Griffin Mills, who also has a sixth-grader at Chippewa who is a gymnast, said she likes her kids having more time after school for homework before activities. 

One big collective sticking point though, again, is lunch. 

At Chippewa, some students are sent to lunch shortly after 10 a.m., at 10:20 a.m. Griffin Mills said it’s too early for lunch, leaving her girls hungry in one of two ways. 

Either they skip breakfast so they are actually hungry for the early lunch, leaving them with one meal over an entire school day. Or, she said, her daughters will pack in a huge breakfast, essentially skip lunch, and end up “a mess” at the end of the day. 

Another concern for parents and staffers is that students aren’t fully awake for the first hour. That concern largely depends on the first class, said Griffin Mills. One of her daughters has back-to-back math classes, which has proved challenging when adjusting to waking earlier and not always being fully alert. 

Overall though, Robertson and Griffin Mills said they support the shift because of the benefit it brings to high-schoolers. 

 

Elementary, Watson?

The scheduling ripple pushed the start time at Island Lake Elementary in Shoreview to 9:20 p.m.

“It is late,” said Island Lake parent Rania Paraskeva. “I don’t know. For other parents, it might work. For us, for me, it’s a nightmare.”

She said her kids wake up at 6 a.m. no matter what time she gets them to bed. The kids used to have a rule against electronics in the morning. With all the early down time, that rule is gone. 

Paraskeva said the late end of the day, after 4 p.m. — which stretches to 5:30 p.m. with activities — leaves her kids hungry and without time to relax before homework, dinner and bed. 

“My kids are stressed out,” said Paraskeva. She said she has more time in the morning, but if she’s going work, which starts before 9:20 p.m., she has to take her kids to daycare. She said she is paying $300 every two weeks. 

“It is what it is, were dealing with it,” said Paraskeva. “I do love the school. We don’t like [the late start time].”

Chippewa Associate Principal Molly Hollihan, who has a sixth-grader at her school, but also a fourth-grader and second-grader in elementary, offered her overall approval of the start times change. 

“I’m willing to juggle drop-off times so, in the end, when its our turn, our kids will be able to benefit,” said Hollihan. 

She acknowledged the transition has been a bit bumpy for her family, but said its worth it. “Ultimately, you kinda pay now for down the road, for when my boys are in high school.” 

 

-Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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