School bus

A First Student school bus travels along Geist Road Tuesday afternoon, August 22, 2017. 

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is looking at the possibility of later start times for high school, middle school and elementary school students.

School board members will be contemplating the start times and the status of Star of the North Secondary School next week.

“I am personally excited about the school start time conversation,” Superintendent Karen Gaborik said.

High schoolers and middle schoolers have participated in focus groups from which Gaborik said the district gathered feedback on how students feel about when school starts and ends. There has also been a K-12 focus group with staff.

Open house walk-throughs were set up at parent-teacher conferences this week, according to Gaborik, with a display of information for parents to view and discuss if they so chose.

“So on Monday the board will have their first work session on the topic,” she said.

There will be a slideshow presentation, currently available online, which they will walk through to discuss the idea.

Currently high school starts first at 7:45 a.m., elementary and K-8 schools start after high school and middle schools start latest of the three.

Various options are proposed in the slideshow: potential start times range across the board from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., with four scenarios for the board to consider. Scenario 1, for example, suggests having high schoolers start at 8 a.m., middle schoolers at 8:15 a.m. and elementary school students at 9:30 a.m. By contrast, Scenario 4 proposes an 8 a.m. start for elementary school, 8:45 a.m. for middle school and 9 a.m. for high school.

The presentation will also discuss implications of later start times for transportation and finances.

At Tuesday’s regular school board meeting, Gaborik will then ask board members to vote on whether they want to continue pursuing a study of later start times. If the board agrees, her plan is to come back with another report on the topic in February to open up the conversation to the larger community.

“We already have a couple of pediatricians in town who are interested,” she said, adding that the medical community is interested in students and their sleeping patterns.

Star of the North

Also on Tuesday’s school board agenda is the dissolving of Star of the North Secondary School.

The Star of the North Academic Policy Committee voted Oct. 17 on a motion not to renew its contract with the school district. After removing language about dissolving the associated nonprofit Star of the North Secondary School, Inc., the motion passed.

The school is currently split into two campuses: the North Pole campus and the Career Education Center campus. The head teachers at both campuses approached Gaborik prior to the decision, and she said she’s been working with them through the process, with the first step being the committee vote.

The goal, according to Gaborik, is not to eliminate what the campuses offer but for their services to continue as programs rather than as a charter school.

“We have a number of programs that exist under Alternative Learning Systems and so they would fall under that,” she said.

Gaborik emphasized that both campuses offer critical services to kids who need flexible schedules in order to graduate and might not get that from a traditional public school setting.

“So it’s important to me that those programs stay intact,” Gaborik said.

Any student eligible to attend would still be eligible to attend should the transition from a charter school to separate programs be approved and Gaborik noted she sees potential for growth.

“I think it actually will be easier for them to be able to do their own thing as separate programs,” she said.

The difference will be, rather than using the state’s formula for funding charter schools, as programs the district will look at projected enrollment and allocate funds accordingly, Gaborik explained.

With the Star of the North Academic Policy Committee voting in favor of not renewing their contract, it will now be up to the Board of Education to approve the decision.

For more information on the Tuesday agenda and supplemental documents, readers can visit https://bit.ly/2NzQhPI

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal

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