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School board hears options for 2021-22 busing schedule

The Albert Lea school board on Monday was presented with four options regarding the schedules of buses in the 2021-22 school year. 

Superintendent Mike Funk laid out two one-tier and two two-tier busing options. The options were presented as follows:

• Option 1: return to pre-COVID schedule (one tier)

Elementary: 8:20 a.m. (8:10 first bell) – 2:50 p.m. 

Middle school: 8:10 a.m. – 3:05 p.m.

High school: 8 a.m. – 2:50 p.m. 

• Option 2: later start times (one tier)

Elementary: 8:45 a.m. (8:35 first bell) – 3:15 p.m.

Middle school: 8:35 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

High school: 8:25 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.

• Option 3 — early elementary; late high school start times (two tier)

Elementary: 7:45 a.m. (7:35 first bell) – 2:15 p.m. 

Middle school: 9 a.m. – 3:40 p.m. 

High school: 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

• Option 4 — keep current schedule (two tier)

Elementary: 8 a.m. (7:50 first bell) – 2:30 p.m.

Middle school: 9:15 a.m. – 3:55 p.m.

High school: 9:15 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Funk said a survey will be sent out to families, students in grades 8-12, and staff as soon as this week to gather thoughts, reactions and concerns to these options. 

Board member Angie Hoffman said she has been approached by parents who have asked why it’s the elementary school that starts early as opposed to the high school. According to Funk, the committee that has laid out the options has been shown multiple pieces of research that indicate older children benefit more from sleeping in later. 

The cost for any of the four options will remain cost neutral for the 2021-22 school year to allow for Albert Lea Bus Co. to research the cost differences. 

Board member Neal Skaar brought up that in a two-tier system, less buses and less drivers would be required, which could result in savings for the school down the road. 

Funk will come back to the board with a final recommendation by the regular June school board meeting, based on findings from the survey. 

“There are lots of options,” said board member Kim Nelson. “I’m excited to go out and ask people what they’re thinking and to promote the survey because if they don’t fill out the survey, we’ll have to go with the option of people who did. If they feel one way or the other, it’s important to fill out the survey.”

In other action, the board: 

  • Heard a COVID-19 update from Kathy Niebuhr, the district’s executive director of administrative services. In the report, Niebuhr said Albert Lea Area Schools had 12 new positive cases in the week of April 25-May 1. Also during that time there were 62 quarantined cases, of which a small number was staff. That number represents 2.3% of the district’s onsite student body. 

So far in the fourth quarter, Albert Lea has reported 65 positive cases. The district has reported 299 since the beginning of the school year. 

  • Recognized Southwest Middle School Principal Chris Dibble as the new high school principal starting next school year. 

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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