Wayzata parents petition to prevent elementary schools from starting earlier

Wayzata Public Schools’ superintendent has proposed shifting the elementary school start times from 9:10 a.m. to 7:20 a.m and having a later start for the high school. A petition from elementary parents to preserve the current start times began Friday night, and grew quickly.

“Overnight we had about 200 people and by the end of the weekend we're about 400 people,” Ryan Wilson, parent of four kids at Wayzata and author of the petition, said.

Right now, Wayzata's Oakwood and Greenwood Elementary schools already have an early start at 7:35 a.m. But Kimberly Lane, Plymouth Creek, Gleason Lake, Birchview, and Sunset hill all start after 9 a.m.

Wilson said he and other parents are concerned that making elementary kids start earlier will hinder their learning. They also believe it's disruptive to families’ schedules, and potentially dangerous.

“A lot of parents have voiced concerns over bus stop safety, being in the dark, and elementary kids tending to be a little more wily than high school kids at the bus stop,” Wilson said.  

But Wayzata schools are taking a serious look at moving the high school’s start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.  For bussing reasons, this means someone has to start earlier. The high school was partially inspired by research from the University of Minnesota that begun in the late 90's, alleging later starts help tired teens do better.

“Around the country, I would say 300 to 400 school districts have made the change already,” author of the University of Minnesota study Kyla Wahlstrom said.  

Wahlstrom said the feedback they've received is that elementary students seem to do better earlier, which fits sleep research -- “The children are able to biologically be awake, whereas teenagers are not capable of being awake biologically much before 7 o'clock in the morning.”

Their follow-up studies have focused on how it's helped the high school students – “we looked at that time, just the high school outcomes found significantly improved grades, less car crashes, less depression.”

But Wayzata elementary parents behind the petition aren't entirely convinced by the research. Their solution would be simply to have no one start at 7:20 a.m.

“Almost all the parents who've weighed in on this are more than happy to provide additional funding, bonding bill or areas of savings to be able to add more busses,” Wilson said.

Wilson is requesting parents to attend the Oct. 1 and Oct. 12 board meetings to ask the school board to vote down the proposal.

Petition- Wayzata Elementary School Start Times

Letter - Sent to school board from concerned parent