School Start Times

At our Board Meeting on August 9, 2021, Superintendent Holmen shared that he has been reviewing the data regarding impediments to revising our school start times. Although there are no changes planned for this year, he intends to revisit the issue and report back to the Board this fall.

Lately, the Board has heard from a number of concerned parents. For several years now, research has demonstrated the benefits of later start times for secondary schools. Adolescents who get more sleep have better academic outcomes and improved mental health.

In years past, logistical concerns seem to have been the major obstacle, particularly transportation issues. At that same Board Meeting, one mother talked about her daughter’s upset when she realized that returning to her school building meant losing the benefit of remote classes beginning at 9:00 AM. This Mom said that she drove her daughter to school so that her daughter could get an extra 20 minutes of sleep rather than getting up early to catch the bus. Those twenty minutes made a big difference to her daughter.

That comment made me wonder. The assumption is that every family wants their students riding the school bus. Is this accurate? Are there some who would trade that bus service, or at least the convenience of a nearby bus stop, for a later start time? If our secondary school busses made fewer stops, could that cut enough time to allow for later pickup times? What are your ideas for slaying this “start time” dragon?

Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, high school start times remained the same but ended 20 minutes later due to the introduction of the seven-period schedule. As a result of the district having to use the same busses for elementary and secondary schools, both the start and end times changed for elementary and middle schools, too. A change in schedule in one area has ripple effects across the district. These days, all students end their school day later than they did five years ago.

Parents responded to past district surveys saying that they want later start times for secondary schools. Recently, we have heard from parents willing to volunteer their time to meet with the district to examine the impediments and see how they might be overcome. Although they haven’t used these exact words, it sounds to me that these parents would like to be part of a new School Start Times Study Committee. I, for one, welcome community input. Our district has made great strides because of the advocacy of parents willing to spend time to smooth out such logistical challenges. In my role as a School Director, I will continue to promote and extend these collaborative efforts.