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Letter: School start time change has costs

I am writing about the high school start times that South Washington County Schools started in 2009. Recently both the Bulletin and the Minneapolis-based Star-Tribune had stories about a school start time study given to District 833. I read these stories with interest because when the program was instituted, I wrote letters to the editor of several papers to say that trying to affect teenage behavior by manipulating start times was questionable at best. Because these changes in start times caused considerable problems in school transportation, it entailed considerable cost to the district.

Both newspapers’ reports that I read only stated that math and the dropout rate were affected by the later start time. According to the original thesis as reported in a St. Paul Pioneer Press article of Nov. 28, 2010, there was supposed to be a significant reduction in dropout rate and depression.

Both of the newspaper articles that I read were less than rave reviews. As far as the dropout rate is concerned, have you gone into a fast-food restaurant or any store lately? I have noticed a lot of overqualified older workers working there. A lot of the jobs that high school dropouts used to get are no longer there. I also noticed a lot of spin-doctoring about how these teenagers weren’t getting the allotted sleep because of having a cellphone in the bedroom.

Now we hear that the district is not going to change the start time back for high schools, but is proposing to contract out even more of our in-district transportation. To me the most telling fact about this whole affair is that all of the other school districts are not jumping on the later start times. I think that the School Board thinks that they are as infallible as the pope. I think that the taxpayers of District 833 deserve a total accounting of how much this social experiment has cost and how much more it will cost.

Scherbel is a 35-year school bus driver and vice president of the union representing School District 833 bus drivers. This letter represents his opinion, not a union position.