School board hears results of transportation and start time survey

Published 9:20 pm Monday, June 7, 2021

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The Albert Lea school board Monday night heard the results of the transportation and start time survey that was sent out to faculty, students and parents a number of weeks ago. 

Survey takers were presented with four options on busing and start time schedules at all the district’s schools. Survey takers were then asked to select one of the options that they think would work best. The options were as follows: 


Option 1: keep current schedule (two tier)

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

Middle school: 9:15 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

High school: 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.


Option 2: early elementary; late high school start times (two tier)

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

Middle school: 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. 

High school: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


Option 3: return to pre-COVID schedule (one tier)

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

Middle school: 8:10 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.

High school: 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.


Option 4: later start times (one tier)

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

Middle school: 8:35 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

High school: 8:25 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.


The board saw the results split into three separate categories: responses from students, responses from staff and responses from parents. 

In all three categories, option three was the most voted on option. The students had the highest support for option three with 55.42% of respondents answering with option three. The parents also showed strong support for option three with 42.18% of survey takers choosing that option. The teachers came in with 35.38% showing support for option three. According to superintendent Mike Funk, the district received around 1,800 responses to the survey, 900 from parents, 700 from students and 200 from faculty. 

Here’s a closer look at the breakdown in each category:



Option 1: 25.94%

Option 2: 22.17%

Option 3: 35.38%

Option 4: 16.51%



Option 1: 25.75%

Option 2: 13.43%

Option 3 : 42.18%

Option 4: 18.65%



Option 1: 14.41%

Option 2: 17.50%

Option 3: 55.42%

Option 4: 12.64%


Board member Bruce Olson said all of the community members he talked to were in favor of starting earlier. 

“Everyone that I talked to, parents and students, said they liked the early out,” Olson said. “Mainly because things get too late. Supper gets late, homework gets late, extracurricular activities get late.”

Board member Neal Skaar said he also received a lot of the same response from community members, and noted that students in extracurricular activities may need to miss more class time in order to get to events on time. 

Board member Kim Nelson said switching to a two-tier system full time could create some opportunities for students to enroll in a zero hour, enabling them to get some early college credit. 

Chris Dibble, former Southwest Middle School principal and current high school principal, said the one-tier system is a safety concern at the middle school. Dibble said in a one-tier model students of all ages would be on the bus at the same time. Elementary students would be bused to the middle school, where they would be unloaded and waited outside for 20 minutes until all the buses arrived. When the buses arrive, elementary students are then allowed to get on their respective buses, followed by the high school and middle school students. Meanwhile, there are other vehicles in the parking lot and streets picking up other students not using the bus system. 

“It is a safety concern,” Dibble said. “It’s a supervision concern. I don’t have enough staff at Southwest to watch all these things that are going on.

“This year, with the two-tier system, we cut it down to the only person out there was the person from the bus company. The elementary students that came stayed on the bus until all the buses came, they made the transition and they left. When our Southwest kids got out, the buses came, the high school kids that came shifted, they got on and they left.”

Dibble also mentioned that when he gets security videos on buses, it’s usually older children fighting in the back or middle school children picking on elementary children. He said dividing the middle school and elementary students has had a positive impact in that respect. 

The board is expected to vote on the matter at the next meeting June 21. 

In other action, the board:

  • Heard a proposal to change the special education model from a team evaluation model to a dual coordinator/director model. Like the old model, the new model would have a director of special education at the top, but instead of an evaluation team that oversees all the schools, the new system will have coordinators placed at different levels on top of an assistant director, nurses, instructional coaches. 
  • Heard an update about the Alternative Teacher Performance Pay System from district coordinator Cathy Baumann. 
  • Recognized Aaron Farris for his service as a school board student representative. 


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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