New School Start Time Proposal: Later Starts for Younger Students
Superintendent Phil Ertl heard from parents that most were opposed to earlier school hours, especially for high schoolers. He has revised his proposal, keeping high school at 8 a.m. and starting lower grades 10 and 20 minutes later.
If there is a change in school start times, it will be toward later bells rather than earlier ones.
In an effort to improve school safety by reducing congestion, Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl recently proposed spreading out the start times of the three school levels and advancing the high school bell to 7:40 a.m.
He asked for feedback from parents and staff, and he got it, apparently by the earful.
Ertl said Monday night that the results of a survey and direct communications from parents showed a strong majority were opposed to earlier school starts, especially the 20-minute advance on high school hours.
He is now proposing the opposite course — keeping high school starts at 8 a.m. and moving both middle schools to 8:10 and all elementary schools to 8:20. It would also conform start times across the district for the different levels.
The problem with current times, Ertl contends, is that they are at the height of the morning commute at all schools and that they are all bunched together in key neighborhood.
Along West Center Street Whitman Middle, West High and Eisenhower Elementary schools stand in a row. Eisenhower, immediately next to West, starts three minutes later than its biggest brother, at 8:03. Whitman, just down the street, starts at 8:05. The congestion is bad and dangerous, with the schools themselves contributing to the chaos.
"The idea is to get the high schoolers off the streets before the elementary drop-off begins," Ertl said.
"Wauwatosa Avenue at that hour has tremendous traffic," board member Lois Weber bemoaned. "It's very dangerous for the little ones trying to get to Lincoln."
But the new start times won't make an impact there – in fact, East now starts at 8 a.m. and Lincoln at 8:23, so the new times will pull them three minutes closer together.
Ertl said that the proposed new times — which will come back to the board in two weeks for a vote — are only a partial solution to safety issues.
He pointed to a traffic study of school zones being undertaken jointly by the city and the School District as a hopeful step toward solving some traffic flow problems brought on by both school and non-school travel.