Burlington, News

BASD considering tweaks to school schedule

By Dave Fidlin

While specifics are still being hammered out, start and end times within the Burlington Area School District are set for a change in the upcoming 2024-25 school year.

Superintendent Jill Oelslager discussed the rationale behind the proposal, cutting costs on the heels of February’s failed operating referendum, at a special School Board meeting on April 24.

“We’ve had conversations about needing to reduce the number of days that our staff are working in order to save the school district approximately $1 million,” Oelslager said.

The reduction in staffing hours is one of multiple cuts to the expense side of the district’s financial ledger next year. Officials have proposed a total reduction of $4.9 million in cost cuts, with the largest being the imminent closure of Lyons Elementary School

Speaking to the logistics behind scheduling, staffing and the financial aspects in play, Oelslager said, “In order to not have (school staff) come to work quite as many days, we needed to reduce the number of in-service days that our staff are coming to school and also change the start and end time for our students.”

At the recent board meeting, Oelslager primarily touched on changes at Karcher Middle and Burlington High schools, where the instructional day could be lengthened and the number of overall instructional days within the calendar year could be shortened.

The current proposal on the table calls for start times of 7:15 a.m. at both upper-level schools, which would be five minutes earlier than the current 7:20 a.m. start time. The schools’ instructional days would wrap at 2:47 p.m. Currently, Karcher ends at 2:30 p.m., and BHS’ ends at 2:35 p.m.

Peter Turke, of the School Board, said he had hesitation over starting school even earlier this fall.

“I’ll say this, and I’ve said this for years now, it bothers me that they start this early,” Turke said. “When I went to the state school board convention, I went to a session on school starts. Burlington has one of the earliest start times in the state. Now we’re even earlier. It’s not good for our teenagers.”

There also could be adjustments at the elementary schools, Oelslager said, though they were not discussed at the most recent board meeting.

Oelslager said there is one overriding factor that will play an important part in determining the specificities in times, and it does not directly relate to the classroom.

“A lot of our start times and end times are contingent on the bus company and ensuring that they can do double runs,” Oelslager said.

She added “double runs” is in reference to a driver transporting Karcher or BHS students first and then immediately doing the same for elementary-level students, which is possible since elementary has, and will continue to, start later than the middle and high schools.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has long had in place different requirements for school district calendars, though there have more recently been changes and more flexibility incorporated into the methodology.

“The only requirements that DPI really has is that at the secondary level, you have to have 1,137 hours of instruction,” Oelslager said. “It used to be days of instruction, and they changed that to hours. We ensured that all of our secondary students we’re getting at least that 1,137 hours.”

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