DES MOINES, Iowa – Des Moines Public Schools is starting off the new school year with some changes.
DMPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart said the district wasted no time this summer.
“This year compared to last year we’ve had to cut over $24 million from our budget. I want parents to understand, or families to understand we have done as much as we can in ways that don’t impact the services that our students have gotten,” Ahart said.
The district decided to have all grade levels under one roof at Lincoln High School and use Rails Academy as a building for administrative offices.
High school students will now be on a seven-period schedule, compared to a block schedule. DMPS said the change will allow students and teachers to have more interactions throughout the week.
Ahart said August 23rd is the first day schools legally can begin class, which is why the district is starting on a Friday.
“I’m interested to see how that is going to go. We think we are ready, but it will be a strange experience having everybody come in for a day and then have a weekend. It will be nice to have a break between all the excitement and nerves are out of the system after the first day,” Ahart said.
In addition, the district will no longer have early out Wednesdays. Instead, everyone is now on a quarter system and students will not have school once a month to give teachers enough time to plan and train.
During the 2018-2019 school year, elementary schools started at 7:30 a.m. The district received much backlash from parents in the district and decided to change it to 7:45 a.m. for the 2019-2020 school year.
Des Moines Parent Lawanda Sanders said, “I was glad to see that they did take the concerns of the parents and maybe even students. Particularly, I know parents at some school board meetings there were even some teachers that expressed their concerns of having the time moved earlier.”
Des Moines Parent Derma Rivera said, “I enjoy the change, because he can sleep a little bit more. We have more time to prepare in the morning, we don’t have to rush in.”
There are now 50 schools in the district that will offer both free breakfast and lunch to its students regardless of income. The program is being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision initiative.
With a new school year comes new construction. Studebaker Elementary is in the middle of a $4 million renovation.
Four additional classrooms are complete at Studebaker to add space for more classes. The building’s new gymnasium and the Boys and Girls Club are still under construction.
DMPS said the parts of the building still under construction are blocked off from students and teachers. The project is estimated to be completed this November.