MCS Announces Later Start Times for 2019-2020

MCS Announces Later Start Times for 2019-2020
Posted on 01/31/2019

MCS Announces Later Start Times for 2019-2020On January 31, Mason City Schools Superintendent Jonathan Cooper announced the 2019-2020 School Start Times decision - incorporating feedback from students, staff and families following a Special Edition CommUNITY Conversation about school start times and their impact on learners’ mental health.


Watch Mr. Cooper explain the decision. THE DECISION

In 2019-2020, Mason Middle School and Mason High School will start 30 minutes later than their current 7:15am start. Mason teens will begin school at 7:45am and will end school at 2:30pm. Mason students in grades 3-6 will attend school from 8:40am - 3:10pm. Mason students in grades PK-2 will adjust their times by 10 minutes. The Mason Early Childhood Center will start school at 9:20am and end school at 3:50pm.  



Mason leaders used feedback from the January 14 CommUNITY Conversation, as well as survey results from staff, families, and MHS and MMS students to improve the plan. One concern about the options presented during the CommUNITY Conversation was that MECC’s later end times would be difficult for young students and their families. MHS teachers understood the concerns and presented a plan to Superintendent Cooper that would shave 15 minutes off of the secondary schools’ day. Their proposal utilizes a different bell schedule that would give teachers more time to collaborate each day and modernizes the current seven bell day that has been in place since the district left the trimester schedule five years ago.


“I am so encouraged to see the example of our Big Rock1: Culture efforts at work in the way that our eductors stepped up to listen with empathy and help each other come up with a solution that is beneficial for our youngest and oldest learners,” said Cooper.


IS THERE A FINANCIAL IMPACT? Many years ago, Mason’s transportation department began tiering its bus service to optimize efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Running three tiers of busses enables one school bus (and one school driver) to transport a bus-load of students from several tiers. Collapsing to a two-tier system would cost millions each year in additional operating costs, and would also be a significant outlay in capital costs to purchase more buses.


Keeping students in grades 3-6 on the same tier will save about $150,000 each year as compared to our current schedule. Those savings are generated from the district’s operating budget - the budget that pays for staff salaries and benefits as well as student supplies, IT, utilities, and bus fuel. Superintendent Cooper has shared an interest in using some of that savings to invest in additional mental health supports for students.


“We are committed to delivering a great value for our community - and that means running our schools as efficiently as possible. I am very proud of our transportation staff who worked through many scenarios to ensure that we have a decision that actually produces savings for our district.”


WHY NOW? Brain research shows that implementing a later morning start time for middle and high school students benefits teens, whose sleep cycles shift around the time they enter puberty. Studies found that when schools start at least 25 minutes later, students tend to use that time to get extra sleep. In fact, students sleep 25 to 77 minutes more per week night when delaying start times by 25 to 60 minutes.

For several years, MMS and MHS students and families have expressed concerns about the current school start times that mean a 7:15am start time for Mason’s teens. Since last January, students, parents, staff, local government officials, private schools, daycares, and business leaders have provided feedback about various start time options. Students and staff shared input in surveys, and throughout the fall district leaders conducted focus groups with students, elementary staff, secondary staff, transportation staff, coaches, performing arts staff, athletic booster groups, performing arts booster groups, families with children with special needs, business partners, daycares, and private school leaders. Additional surveys were done in January 2019 with MMS and MHS students, and Mason staff and families.

WHATS NEXT? This is just one step in a journey to improve learners’ mental health. Students, staff and families also shared concerns about homework, the competitive culture in Mason, impact of social media and screen time, and the amount of time needed for extracurriculars.

We’ve tried to take a very collaborative approach when considering later school school start times and while we might not solve everything, we are hopeful that the new times will be better than our current schedule. Really, this is the beginning of what we see becoming a larger community conversation about how we can ensure that each of our learners is healthy and engaged.”

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