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Farmington Public Schools start times under review by operations director, bus company

Adjustments with school start times for students who attend Farmington Public Schools may be on the horizon.

Dan Miller, director of operations for Farmington Public Schools, presented a report with Farmington School Board on Monday, Nov. 26.

Miller explained why the school district is investigating changing school start times.

Elementary earlier, high school later

The school district is currently in discussions with Tom Severson who leads Marschall Bus Line, Inc., in Farmington about investigating school start times and how this would impact the busing schedule.

Miller said the district wishes to maintain the current number of bus routes and maintain a tiered structure. This means a particular bus would drive multiple routes and perhaps travel to another second or third route to pick up and drop off students at different schools.

"A substantial body of research shows secondary students do better if school starts later in the morning when their bodies are more ready," Miller said.

When the new Farmington High School opened its doors in 2009, Miller said the high school start time was adjusted.

Experts recommend it is better for elementary students to start school early in the morning when they are full of energy and because the youngsters' sleep cycles are different, Miller explained.

"Currently, we have a significant number of elementary students in our district who are in our before-school care as early as 6 a.m., almost three hours before they start their official school day," Miller said.

Students who have been at school for three hours before the school day begins attend the before- and after-school day care programs. This fact presents challenges in many ways, Miller said.

Now five Farmington elementary schools begin the day between 8:30-9:10 a.m. and dismiss between 3-3:40 p.m. The two middle schools' run 7:35 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. The high school runs 8:20 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. Even though some students start school earlier with zero hour, they need to secure their own transportation.

Impact on targeted services

Because academic help or targeted services are offered after school via Tiger Academy, school start time changes will impact these services. Tiger Academy students have access to busing after school.

"Targeted services for students who need extra support to achieve school success are severely limited with the current late dismissal times at the elementary," Miller said. "One of the things we are trying to do is get more information from a transportation standpoint and find out what is possible, and it is a little bit of a challenge. The concern is the duration of their day that may be limited with the length of day, and dismissal times can be a challenge."

Talks are underway to adjust elementary school start times to earlier in the day, and move middle school start times later in the morning, too, Miller explained.

The goal is to make sure school bus transportation changes would be budget neutral or close to budget neutral.

Farmington School Board will review possible school start time scenarios and bus routing options at the January work session.

"The hope is we can get additional information from the bus company and we can run through different scenarios to see if it is feasible or not," Miller said. "We are hoping the bus company will come up with another option that might work."

School start time adjustments are still in the preliminary stages and any potential changes would not happen until next fall.

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