Over two dozen people, including middle school staff, teachers and area high schoolers attended the Anchorage School District's open house at Gruening Middle School in Eagle River Thursday night. The open house is one of three final stops to inform people what the district is recommending after 11 months of exhausting work.

"We're nearing the end of the discussion," Shannon Bingham with research company Western Demographics said. "We're explaining a final proposal that represents five final concerns that parents have had."

The final order for school start times proposes high school starts at 8 a.m. followed by elementary at 8:45 a.m. and middle schoolers at 9:30 a.m. The proposed plan did not sit well with many people in attendance.

"This plan is taking money right out of my pocket," one middle school parent said. "Now I have to pay for childcare. That's taking money right out of my pocket. This is going to cost me and my family money."

The recommendation the district feels benefits everyone. High schoolers get an extra half hour of sleep, elementary school schedules are impacted by 15 minutes and middle schoolers are left with less time home alone where they can get into mischief. People in attendance had mixed reviews. 

"This whole thing revolves around the high schoolers and elementary," said Michelle Bergquist, middle school special education teachers assistant. "Middle schoolers totally got left out. They are the last tier of change. We're at the very end and start at 9:30 a.m. and get out at 4:00 p.m.? Legitimately we are only changing high school by a half hour. So, why are we changing just a half hour when the biggest concern is high schoolers getting more sleep. I have a high schooler and she said she'd just stay up longer."

Students from Eagle River High School in attendance disagreed. 

"I would sell my left kidney to get 30 minutes more sleep," one ERHS senior said. "I don't know where this stereotype of kids staying up late comes from. I go to bed as early as possible while getting my AP work done. On average I get like six hours of sleep a night."

Middle school parents and staff say the longer days for middle schoolers will cause more harm than help. 

"It affects sports, kids will be out of school at 4 o'clock, when are sports starting?" Bergquist said. "When are they ending? Sports are starting later at night then we are having children miss their meal time, dinner, that's family time. Teachers will have longer days and what about coaches? People I've talked to said they wouldn't want to coach anymore."

Bingham says he understands the concerns and Anchorage is a very unique market with a three-tiered school time. 

"There are a lot of smart people who are very good at what they are doing," Bingham said. "They know the bus routes, what works what doesn't. Change isn't easy. What someone thinks is best for them isn't going to be what's best for someone else. We're trying to do what's best for everyone and we feel this plan is it."

The district will hold two more open houses next week. Monday, September 17 at Lake Otis Elementary and on Tuesday at South High School. Both start at 6 p.m. and last until around 7:30 p.m.

The school board plans to vote on the recommendation in early October. It is possible none of the new school start time recommendations will pass a vote and the current schedule may stay the same. 

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