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Earlier start times set to kick in for Longview schools

Earlier start times set to kick in for Longview schools

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Sleepy Longview teens better be careful how many times they slap the snooze button when school starts back up this fall.

All students are starting classes 10 minutes earlier this year to allow the district to accommodate three teacher training days.

This means that most school days at Mark Morris and R.A. Long will begin at 7:40 a.m. Monticello Middle School students will slog their way to school by 7:30 a.m., the earliest start time for any of the district's schools. Cascade and Mount Solo middle schools will move up to 7:40 a.m. and 7:50 a.m., respectively.

While it's only a 10-minute shift, the move further cements Longview's position as the area's undisputed early-bird district. In fact, Castle Rock High School is moving in the opposite direction of Longview this year, delaying the starting bell until 8:50 a.m. on Tuesday through Thursday to provide time before school for students to get help with homework.

Longview schools Superintendent Suzanne Cusick said she's aware of research that suggests students learn better later in the day, but she said she doesn't believe the new start time is too early.

Longview isn't the earliest school to start in Southwest Washington. Vancouver and Battle Ground high schools, for example, start at 7:30 a.m.

Cusick said she doubts a 10-minute change will make much difference in student alertness.

"I suppose they might also be asleep at 7:50," she said, when asked if she was worried students would doze off during first period.

Most students arrive at school earlier than 7:40 a.m. anyway, she said.

"Quite frankly, the information we got from principals and teachers is that the majority of the kids are already there," Cusick said.

The district is lengthening the average school day this year to compensate for three fewer school days. School will run for 177 days - down from the normal 180 - to allow for three days of teacher training. The state Board of Education approved the schedule change, district officials said.

Longview elementaries also are starting 10 minutes early. Their start times range from 8:20 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. Each Wednesday, schools will start an hour late to free up time for weekly teacher meetings.

In the past, the state has funded teacher training days, but those days have fallen victim to budget cuts, said Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association.

Now, he said, districts must get creative to fit training days into the regular calendar without sacrificing classroom time.

"That forces districts to have to do these types of things," Wood said.

For at least the past year, Longview school officials and teachers have been discussing extending the school day. The district ultimately opted to start earlier rather than extend the day 10 minutes later because officials worried some elementary students might end up walking home in the dark during the winter, Cusick said. Robert Gray Elementary students, for example, are released at 3:30 p.m., and many of them have a lengthy bus ride west of Longview.

The district is in talks with community providers such as Longview Parks and Recreation and Youth and Family Link to offer child care to working families on Wednesday mornings, when the hour-late starts could present transportation problems.

School districts must provide at least 1,000 hours of instruction to students in grades one through 12, but the state places no restrictions on when the school day must begin or end.

"Whether a school wants to start at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., that's up to them," said Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Area high school start times

School Start Times
R.A. Long 7:40 a.m. (8:40 a.m. Wed
Mark Morris 7:40 a.m. (8:40 a.m. Wed)
Kelso 8 a.m.
Castle Rock 8:45 a.m. Tues-Thurs, 8:15 a.m. Mon & Fri
Kalama 8:30 a.m.
Vancouver high schools 7:30 a.m.
Battle Ground high schools 7:30 a.m.

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It's sunny, it's hot and it's finally starting to feel like summer. That can only mean one thing here: Time to go back to school. Most local students return to the classroom Wednesday, where they'll meet new teachers, new classmates, new lunch buddies and new secret admirers.

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