June 12, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande high school and middle school students will have their daily routine altered significantly in September.

Classes will start a half-hour later under a schedule that takes effect at the start of the school year.

The school day will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the high school and middle school. In the school year just completed, the school day ran from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the high school and from 8:10 to 2:21 p.m. at the middle school.

District elementary students are facing a less drastic schedule change, one that will run from 8:10 to 2:30 p.m. In the school year just completed, classes started at 8 a.m. and finished at 2:17 p.m.

With Riveria Elementary closing at the end of the 2001-2002 school year, about 120 students will have to be bused to other schools. Mid Columbia Bus Company will transport the additional students without adding bus routes under the new schedule, said Superintendent-select Jay Rowell.

Under the old schedule, two bus routes would have had to be added at a cost of $72,000.

Riveria was closed because of its poor condition and to save the school district money. Most students there were not bused to school because they lived less than a mile away.

Having the high school and middle school class days begin and end at the same time makes it easier for the two schools to share resources, Rowell said.

This includes making it easier for middle school students who take more advanced math classes to go to the high school to take them. The class time schedules at the two schools are not aligned, but Rowell hopes they can be in the future.

Under the new schedule the high school probably will continue to have teacher-access time when students may be released an hour early one day a week to have time to meet individually with teachers.

During the past school year, students were released an hour early on Wednesday afternoons for teacher-access time. The time was well used by students, Rowell said.

Under the new schedules, the class day for grade school students will be three minutes longer and the class day for middle school students will be 19 minutes longer. The class day for high school students will be 30 minutes less.

The high school, however, will still meet state standards for class time since there will be just one early release day per week instead of two.

In the 2001-2002 school year, students were released at 2 p.m. Wednesdays for teacher access and at 2 p.m. Mondays for teacher staff development time. Teachers used that time to do such things as receive technology training.