FDCSD board tables discussion on schedules

The proposed schedules for Fort Dodge Community Schools are listed next to the current schedules.

The Fort Dodge Community School District board delayed action on proposed new schedules for each of its schools at its meeting Monday night.

Stacey Cole, FDCSD director of education services, presented the schedules to the board.

She asked for approval on the school hours for the 2018-19 school year.

“With school hours, we are thinking about more collaboration time for our teachers to ensure more learning for our students,” Cole said.

She said the changes address two main objectives.

“Our two objectives with changing the school hours is to get more time frequently for teachers to work together,” she said. “The second thing is to eliminate early outs from the school calendar to be responsive to our parents.”

Another goal is to have all buildings be within 10 minutes for transportation reasons.

She added that parents have said they prefer the high school times to be in line with the elementary times.

Cole said the staff likes the earlier dismissal time.

“They like the earlier time, so when athletes get out of class early for an event, they are not missing so much time,” she said.

Matt Wagner, board member, made a request for more time to think about the decision.

Stu Cochrane, board president, asked Wagner if he had a specific concern.

“We got an email today,” he said. “There is some data that is worth discussion. As a parent who has students who have attended before school weight lifting, that 20 minutes of sleep or whatever it happens to be is reasonably significant.”

Wagner added, “My six years on the school board, maybe the most contentious decision we ever made was changing the hours of the school day. It just seems like it warrants some discussion. That would be my take. I am not prepared to vote for it.”

Superintendent Doug Van Zyl asked if there was any specific questions Wagner had or if he just wanted more time to think over the decision.

“I haven’t really had an opportunity to review it other than the email I got today,” he said.

Cochrane asked if it would do any harm to delay the decision.

“I don’t think it harms anything necessarily,” Van Zyl said. “I am just wondering what other information you need? What other information needs to be shared or discussed. If there’s something we can present that we haven’t presented.”

Cole said elementary parents have said they want the buildings open by 7:40 a.m.

“They want to be able to get their kids into the building by 7:40 in the morning so they can get to work,” Cole said. “That has been overwhelming.”

Van Zyl said other high schools around the country actually start earlier.

“I can tell you in Missouri, we were starting at 7:30 in the morning with our high school kids,” he said. “That 20 or 30 minutes does make a difference in that.”

According to Van Zyl, research supports high school students starting later, while research supports younger students starting earlier.

“I am not saying I am opposed to this,” Wagner said. “I am just saying an issue that affects parents, this is one I am not prepared to vote on tonight.”

Wagner made a motion to table the decision on the proposed schedules for the 2018-19 school year.

Steve Springer, board member, seconded the motion.

“Mainly because if there is a concern of a board member and for such a significant issue, we have two board members who aren’t here, let’s make sure we are all on board,” Springer said.

The board also tabled any action on the 2018-19 school calendar.