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Eldon High School has seen a lot less frantic entries to the building since the district changed the school’s start times in August.

“Our teachers have noticed it; it’s just an overall well-being that they’re not rushed,” Principal Kris Harwood said.

When school officials learned how much 30 minutes would impact the safety, happiness and health of students and teachers, they worked with the district and community to make it happen, Harwood said. Changing bus schedules, drop-off times and after-school activities had to be done before the time could change.

She said there was a mixed reaction from some elementary families initially, but the positive benefits have outweighed those concerns.

“It was a really hard sale because it really is for more of the (seventh- through 12th-graders) — those are the kids it has the greatest impact on,” Harwood said.

She said school officials learned during a conference how younger children were not affected by start time changes but adolescent brains are not able to function as well early in the morning.

The Eldon R-1 district agreed to a 8:20 a.m. start time for middle school and 8:30 a.m. for elementary and high school — a shift from the high school’s previous start time of 7:55 a.m. and elementary and middle school start time of 7:50 a.m.

Harwood took the first look at this school year’s high school attendance to the board meeting Monday. The data compared how many full days of school a student missed the last three years within the first two months.

The high school’s average daily attendance for the 2018-19 school year so far was 95.4 percent, compared to the previous year’s 92.3 percent.

“They were pleased and surprised we were getting results so quickly,” Harwood said. “The board were starting to get out their calculators and crunch numbers.”

Although it’s early, officials appear confident the positive progress will continue.

“We obviously think that if more kids are showing up at the high school that more kids are going to graduate,” Eldon R-1 Superintendent Matt Davis said.

This change isn’t the only effort the district is making to help students graduate. Eighth-graders spend a day at the high school meeting with counselors and attending classes with a junior or senior. The high school offers credit recovery and extended days to help students get any help they need.

These are part of the district’s 21-step “graduates journey” plan started eight years ago.

“We want every student prepared to be successful,” Harwood said. “They’re just happier because they’re able to start their morning in a much calmer manner.”

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