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Wayzata schools debate start times


Staff Writer

Parents jammed a meeting Thursday night to raise concerns about a proposal for 7:30 a.m. start times for most Wayzata elementary schools so high school students can start later.

Superintendent Chace Anderson’s recommended school start time scenario would mean most elementary schools in the district would start at 7:30 a.m., pushing back Wayzata High School’s first bell from 7:30 a.m. to 8:20. The start time proposal was spurred by the opening of Meadow Ridge Elementary in fall 2016.

The Wayzata school board expects to make a decision on the start time proposal Oct. 12.

Anderson backs the proposal because of research on the benefits of sleep for adolescents, as well as his conversations with staff. He said that though every student wants a later start, after talks with staff, elementary school students are observed to function better in early hours.

The district can’t afford all schools starting at the same time, he said.

“Everybody wants that sweet spot of the 8:15,” Anderson said. “It’s a really nice time to start for many kids.”

The proposal has sparked outcry from parents — many who have younger children in the district. A few of them interjected during the question-and-answer session with a moderator reading questions, frustrated that the panel wasn’t answering their concerns. Some were clad in gold shirts that read “Well-being and safety for YOUNG kids matter TOO.”

During the almost three hour-long meeting in the Central Middle School auditorium, sleep medicine Dr. Conrad Iber, school start times researcher Kyla Wahlstrom and sleep-specializing pediatrician John Garcia discussed sleep studies and optimal sleep times for students.

More sleep is better for all children, they concluded. Wahlstrom noted that data showed positive results for high schoolers with later start times, but that there wasn’t research specifically about elementary school early start time effects.

“We don’t have the research to claim that it’s detrimental to the children,” she said. “We don’t also know that it’s beneficial.”

Wayzata High School’s start time is early compared to neighboring high schools. Eden Prairie High School starts at 7:50 a.m. and Minnetonka High School starts at 8 a.m.; Wayzata is almost an hour earlier than Edina High School’s 8:25 a.m. start time.

Anderson noted that adding more school buses that would keep students on for 45 minutes would cost $1 million annually, and he’s worried there won’t be enough bus drivers to complete routes.

Parent concerns ranged from earlier bedtimes to children waiting outside before 7 a.m. for buses. Some worried that the district would back a proposal without any data on its predicted impact on younger students.

“Why would you take this gamble?” said Ethan Roberts, who has two children in elementary school in Wayzata.

Vintage apt. building, vacant 20 years, gets Mpls. backing for redevelopment

A handsome apartment building on E. Franklin Avenue that's been vacant for about 20 years is finally heading toward redevelopment by an area landlord with a proven track record.

Landlord Mark Orfield will buy the property from the city under a plan to sell him the gutted building at 628 Franklin for that won preliminary approval this week in a City Council committee.

If he's successful in his plans to renovate the 1904 building to create 14 market-rate apartments, Orfield will reawaken a building that hasn't had tenants since the mid-1990s and create just over $1 million in property value. It's been on the city's vacant building registration list for a dozen years, which makes it among the longest on that list.

That would generate more than $20,000 per year in taxes. To make that happen, the city is writing down the sale price to $75,000, or $178,191 less than it paid in 2013 to regain the property.

Orfield plans 11 one-bedroom apartments that will rent for $1,200 monthly, plus three smaller apartments renting for $790. His was chosen from four proposals for the stately but neglected building. His family has been in the rental business since 1939, accumulating more than 200 units, and Orfield has owned and managed 90 apartments across Franklin Avenue since 1994.

“That’s great. Someone like that should own it. That’s exactly what that property needs -- a good solid private landlord," said Jason Geschwind, who made a previous unsuccessful attempt to rehab the building.

One impediment to redevelopment has been that the building has only five parking spaces, given that it was built when most people walked or rode a streetcar. Orfield is surmounting that deficiency by making parking available at his Best Apartments at 2008 Park Av. across Franklin.

Orfield is attempting what at least two previous developers have failed at. Geschwind and Thea LLC bought it from the city in 2003, with Sabri Holdings LLC supplying some financing. Thea lost the building to Sabri, which didn't finish the rehab. The city bought back the building in 2012, and has been looking for a developer since.

The City Council is scheduled to ratify the sale at its Oct. 9 meeting.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Twitter: @brandtstrib

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