Pasco board OKs staggered schedule

Students at middle and elementary schools in Pasco will start and end their school days on a staggered schedule starting this fall, the school board decided Tuesday.

The Pasco School Board unanimously approved the new schedule in principle, although details and times remain to be worked out. The new schedule is needed because of overcrowding in Pasco schools.

Right now, students from severely crowded schools are bused to other campuses, which involves switching buses at the school nearest to where they live. Because of the added bus trip, these students have to be dismissed early and start late. If times were staggered for all students, the district could move more kids with the buses it has without students' having to switch, John Morgan, the executive director of operations, told the board..

Board member John Hergert was concerned about staggered start times for middle school students. Many kids involved in sports teams or music programs already start their days at the zero hour -- before first period. Early start times would mean they'd have to get up even earlier, he said.

The group working on a final schedule would consider this in its planning, Morgan said.

The plan will save the district money, make transportation more efficient and keep students from missing class time, Morgan said

Other Washington school districts with rapid growth, such as Vancouver, Bethel and Puyallup, have successfully switched to this system, Morgan said.

The district will try to work out a possible schedule by April 1 and bring the matter back to the board shortly thereafter.

Also Tuesday:

-- The district said farewell to Pete Felsted, who retired from the board effective Tuesday. He'd served for more than seven years and received a standing ovation from teachers, officials and visitors.

Earlier in the afternoon, the board held an informational meeting for anyone wishing to take Felsted's place.

Two candidates attended -- Shannon Kinnunen, a mother of two, who works as a project manager at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, and Ruben Perálta, a father of three, who owns an insurance agency and taught at McLoughlin Middle School for four years. Both live in Pasco and have children in Pasco schools.

Applications can be submitted until 5 p.m. today and the board will appoint its new member Feb. 1. That member will serve out Felsted's term and be up for election in November.

-- Pasco will apply for a waiver with state officials so that students at Delta High School receive 1.5 credits per trimester instead of one. Students at the regional high school undergo a more rigorous curriculum and have longer class periods. Kennewick and Richland school districts will have to submit their waiver requests before the rule goes into effect.