WENATCHEE — Parents of Wenatchee students are getting another chance to weigh in on what are now two ideas for changing school start times and bus routes in the fall.
A survey, which will be emailed Friday to parents and posted on the district website, includes the previously presented option for elementary schools to start and end an hour earlier than middle and high school schools. The second option flips it around, with older students starting earlier and younger students starting later.
What’s still not on the table is leaving the school start times as they were — with all levels starting about the same time.
The hour separation is needed so bus drivers can pick up and deliver the first set of students to school (either older or younger) and then return for the second group. The shift would avoid having students on the bus for more than an hour at a stretch, said Superintendent Paul Gordon. Previously some students were on the bus for two hours. It also would keep younger students separated from the older students, which had been an area of concern.
The initial plan, heard by the Wenatchee School Board in late April, was to start elementary schools at 7:45 a.m. and secondary schools at 8:45 a.m. The earliest pickup time would be at 6:40 a.m., 10 minutes later than the current earliest pickup time.
Some of the details were still being worked out, including the changes to before-and after-school childcare.
Of the 1,700 parents who responded to a survey on the issue, about 61% supported the idea, Gordon said, but comments highlighted concerns, including impacts to sporting events that would end an hour later and issues for parents who drop off their children on the way to work.
District officials have since tweaked some elements of the first proposed schedule to see if it will work better for families and is seeing what flipping the start times would do, with older students starting earlier.
The new options and second survey plans were presented Tuesday to the board.
“We want to make sure we understand all the issues that parents might have,” Assistant Superintendent Mark Helm told board members. “We had been hoping to come to you with a recommendation today, but this is a huge shift. Each one has its own opportunities for discussion. We are trying to do our due diligence.”
Board members said they appreciated the extra effort to connect with parents.
“I appreciate you taking a step back and not rushing into it, especially since no one knows what school will look like in the fall,” Board President Laura Jaecks said.