MILLBURY – Lake Local Schools has set its alarm clock back a year in implementing a new start time for
At Wednesday’s meeting, the school board voted 5-0 to change the start and end times of the school year
to 8:10 a.m.-2:40 p.m. for the elementary school, and 8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for the middle and high
The change will start the 2020-21 school year – a year after what was initially planned to allow families
more time to adjust schedules.
“(This) gives everyone time for this to sink in,” said board President Tim Krugh. “I think it gives time
for everyone to take a breath and figure out how to adapt to the change in the times and to make it
Current times are 8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for the elementary and 7:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for the middle and high
Each board member took the time address the audience of about 30.
Brad Blandin said he learned of the study in July 18, from reading the district’s Focus newsletter before
he was appointed to the board. He started looking into the starting time concept.
“I have a curious mind and I want to know what’s best for my kids as a parent,” he said.
Once on the board, Blandin said that he set aside his needs as a parent and studied the issue independent
of personal preference.
“I was very skeptical at first, but the more I read about it, the more I learned this is a very positive
not only for teenagers but also the elementary.”
Reading the data, Blandin said he learned that schools that push the school day back increase academic
performance and health and well-being. Family relationships also improve since kids tend to be less
irritable when they have more rest.
He admitted he has not seen as much data on the elementary benefits, but in the absence of data he used
experience with his own kids. They are up earlier and more alert earlier in the day.
“I have spent several months reading the data … and this is a good step for the youth of our community,”
It’s not going to be perfect and won’t fit every student, but for the majority of them, the evidence
shows this is the best decision, Blandin concluded.
Monica Leppelmeier said that the board isn’t focusing on convenience. With three children in elementary,
it will be very inconvenient for her family, she said.
“I have to put those personal feeling aside and think of what’s best for these children that we are
teaching every single day,” she said.
In a public forum Monday, Superintendent Jim Witt referred to a University of Minnesota study which said
a later start for high school students had graduation rates improve from 79 to 88 percent in two years,
attendance increase and achievement gaps close.
Students are less likely to have symptoms of depression, fall asleep in class and need caffeine, Witt
“The data seems pretty clear,” said board member John Ervin. “Our decision is based on what we think is
best for the majority of students. In this case, it seems to be obvious to me. There are people who are
going to be inconvenienced but we’ve got to do best for the majority.”
Based on the date presented to the board, it is a “100 percent no-brainer” for board member Scott Swartz.
He pointed out that when the district went to all-day kindergarten, he thought the kids wouldn’t be able
to handle going on day. But they have adapted.
Krugh said this has been a long process, going back to a workshop in November 2017 when the board
discussed ways to improve academics.
“It makes sense for our students,” he said.
Krugh said he didn’t make up his mind on the issue until hearing the research at Monday’s forum.
Elementary principal Mandy Wilburn agreed that the later you get in the day, the harder it is to keep
students engaged and learning.
An earlier start time in the elementary would mean less time in the afternoon and more child engagement
time earlier in the day, she said.
And with no air conditioning in the building, an earlier end time means the kids won’t have to deal with
the heat, Wilburn said.
Brian Braatz, Walbridge, pointed out the time of sunrise through the year, and said it is not safe to
allow elementary to walk by themselves in the dark to get on the bus.
“I am concerned something could happen,” he said.
Blandin said he has lived in the district his entire life and has never seen young kids walking to a bus
Katie Enright, Walbridge, said it didn’t feel like a transparent process.
“How do we come together as part of the solution … so everyone feels heard and we do this the right way?
We have a great community, and right now this is causing a divide,” she said.
Jennifer Zam, Walbridge, agreed, adding that the best way to implement change is to involve the people
affected by that change. That did not happen with this decision, she said.
“There has been no effort to involve the community, the parents,” she said, adding that the committee had
unknown credentials, and no one knows what they looked over.
The committee studying the issue, which has been meeting for the past year, included three staff members
from each building, plus two community members.
Zam charged that there was bias in the picking of this team.
Krugh took offense at that, stating “there is absolutely no agenda and there was no plan where we would
Zam also pointed out the data has not been shared to show the public how the board came to this
conclusion. She suggested surveying the entire community.
There is plenty of data for the high school, but little for the elementary, Zam said. She has a
background in early education and can find studies that negate what the board has said about the
benefits to the elementary start time.
“It’s unfathomable you can gather so little information and make such a big decision that affects to many
people so carelessly,” she said.
“I may not agree, but if it’s better for the kids I’ll be on board. But prove it to me.”
Jacob Forrest, Millbury, said people are asking questions and the board is giving no answers.
“I’m all for the committee that has been formed. As you back this decision … you are not offering as a
board anything to at least satisfy the needs I see in this room.”
“Has communication broken down? Yes,” said Blandin, adding that needs to be worked on.
But he disagreed with people saying there was no data out there, adding that needs to be communicated.
“I believe the research that this will be good for our kinds and our community,” he said.
The vote will go into effect regardless of any issues raised, Forrest asked.
While Krugh pointed out the board vote was unanimous, Ervin said “this could be changed.”
Krugh said there has been a lot of emails and interaction with community members through the process.
“So it certainly is no surprise and something we’ve taken very seriously. I think the process has been
Krugh said he has gotten support every day he is in the community.
Witt agreed, stating there are many positive people who don’t want to speak publicly in support.