School board rethinks start times for 2017-18
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After last reviewing start times in 2014 and concluding that it would be economically unfeasible to change them, the School Board has announced new plans to review the issue in the fall of 2016.
“Since we reviewed it last time, a number of things—pretty big things—have changed in the district,” said Board Chair Amy Jones.
Although District policy calls for a routine review of start times every three years, this year’s review has been moved up six months in response to recent developments.
According to Jones, increased enrollment numbers prompted re-evaluation, as the new start times would affect a greater population of students. Additionally, the District recently diversified its transportation contract for more flexibility and is currently conducting facility evaluations.
“We’ve always agreed with the fact that there’s medical and scientific evidence that start times that are later are better for high school kids,” said Jones. “But we needed to pay attention to all the other pieces around that which impact our ability to change the start times.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers undergo a shift in sleeping pattern during puberty, causing them to go to bed later and wake up at a later time. Later school start times work better with their sleep rhythms and help them perform their best.
In one study done at the University of Minnesota, researchers observed a significant improvement in attendance and grades at eight high schools located in Minnesota, Wyoming and Colorado after the high schools pushed start time back to at least 8:35 a.m. In addition, the schools noticed a decrease in substance abuse and use of caffeinated beverages after the change.
“I think that later start times will be better. I know that I personally am addicted to caffeine because I wake up at 5:30 to take the bus at 6:15,” said Elizabeth McElyea, 12. “Even pushing it back 30 minutes would help.”
This fall’s discussions will aim to gather community feedback on the issue—especially from middle and elementary school parents, who have not been as vocal as high school parents on the issue. The Board will evaluate the possibility of having all schools start between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m.
“We do not have any plans at this point about who would go to school first. We want to pay attention to the fact that somebody goes to school first,” said Jones. “What does it mean for after school jobs? What does it mean for after school sports?”
Starting in September, the Board will hold public forums, conduct phone surveys, organize meetings with district schools’ Parent Teacher Associations and set up other community outreach programs to assess opinion on the issue. They expect to reach a decision in early winter.
If people want to provide feedback, they may contact Jones directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.