Port Angeles accepts timeline for later school start

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles School Board members Monday approved a timeline to consider moving the morning bell of Port Angeles High School ahead one hour.

They also heard from a group of teachers and parents who begged them to reconsider cuts to the district’s Infant and Toddler Early Intervention program.

The High School Start Time Task Force recommended that classes begin 45 minutes later than its present 7:45 a.m. first bell.

A similar shift also is being considered for Stevens Middle School.

Under the proposed schedule, the first class bell would ring at 8:30 a.m., and students would finish their day at 3:30 p.m. instead of 2:35 p.m.

A growing body of research endorsed by the American Pediatric Society indicates that adolescent biorhythms are different than those of adults, the task force reported.

Asking the students to perform at 7:45 a.m. is like asking adults to perform at peak levels at 2 a.m., the studies concluded.

The board will begin looking at the issue at the July 9 board meeting, with a final decision Nov. 26.

The board asked student representative Jacob Woods to poll classmates to determine how the time shift would affect their activities.

Woods said he had taken an informal poll and reported that several students said they would love to make the change today.

Some students who take classes at Peninsula College said it would make dual-enrollment scheduling easier, while athletes were concerned the schedule would push practices back into the evening, Woods said.

A larger poll will be conducted by the student leadership class.

Benefits the task force found include:

■ Increased scheduling flexibility.

■ Reduced unattended time for latch-key children.

■ Improved academic performance and attendance.

Coaches would be asked to continue to cover missed classes for each other and to ask other Olympic League Districts to make a similar change in schedule.

Bainbridge High School and several Seattle high schools already use a delayed schedule, the study noted.

Program cuts protested

Later, a dozen teachers and parents protested cuts in the Infant and Toddler Intervention program.

The program, which works with parents and children from birth to their second birthday, provides therapy and parenting lessons to help children work through disabilities early.

“The first 18 months is when the brain is most plastic,” said Marci Ahlgren, preschool autism class teacher at Jefferson Elementary.

If teachers and parents wait until children are older, less can be done to make permanent changes, Ahlgren said.

Early treatment can save the district money and give children a better chance in life, she said.

Proponents said the district receives funding for infants and toddlers in the same manner it gets funding for school-age children.

The children currently have twice-weekly 90-minute group sessions with their parents.

To be eligible, they must be behind in two or more developmental areas.

These students may, by law, be served by monthly consultations in their homes, visits to day care or through center-based activities.

Weekly services are not required by law, Superintendent Jane Pryne noted in her report to the council.

An evaluation is done prior to the age of 3 to determine whether children are eligible for special-education services.

This year, only four of 23 students in the program are eligible to continue with special-education services in preschool.

Enrollment in the program is declining, reflecting the elementary enrollment decline of the entire school district, Pryne said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 22. 2012 5:47PM
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