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There will be things we take from the last year-plus of the pandemic and incorporate into our lives heading forward — more Zoom meetings seem likely.

Education will be a particular area of interest given the rapid implementation of many online educational models. This has been large-scale “test in the field” experience.

But there will also be a strong desire to return to some elements of normalcy, routine and stability.

The Ellensburg School Board has not made a decision in this matter, but there is a concern among some parents and community members that the board is considering heading into the 2021-22 school year with the staggered schedule it has used this year.

At this moment the assumption is school will return in the classroom, five days a week at all grade levels in the fall.

This year’s schedule features a range of start times from 7:30 a.m. at Mount Stuart Elementary School to 9:20 a.m. at Ellensburg High School. Much of the focus is on the high school because the 9:20 a.m. start, means the day does not end until 4 p.m., potentially bumping into after-school activities, work and family schedules.

The schedule changes were needed to adjust to the hybrid schedules and bus kids while still meeting spacing requirements. Kudos to all involved for making this past year’s schedule work because it required a lot of adjustments from all involved — school staff, transportation, students, parents and families.

Prior to the pandemic — if the mind can recall those days — the Ellensburg School District had what many considered an exemplary schedule. Start times were staggered for busing, but within a relatively tight time range.

At the high school, Ellensburg was ahead of the curve. Other districts, particularly on the West Side, have high school start times between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Studies indicate teenagers don’t function all that well academically with start times that early. While other high schools were trying to figure out how to adjust schedules, Ellensburg was already there.

While there may be teens who appreciate the 9:20 a.m. start time, the question is does it have enough value to outweigh the impact on other post-school schedules.

Just considering sports, which are not mandatory, when school ended at 3:20 p.m., teams would practice until anywhere from 5 to 5:30 p.m., depending on the sport. If you take an average of 90 minutes to two hours for practice, with a 4 p.m. release, you’re looking at kids not leaving school/practice grounds until after 6, probably closer to 6:30 p.m. Each family can do its own math from there to factor how much that impacts home life.

At first blush, the hyper-staggered schedule does not seem like something that the district would carry forward out of the pandemic. It’s possible the different grade levels are seeing benefit from the adjusted start times but there would need to be compelling case.

If you have a view on this, share it with the Ellensburg School Board.

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