DPS to look at later school start times, possibly for 2015-16

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 05:16 PM

Is 7:30 a.m., too early for middle school and high school students to start the day? Or, is 9:30 a.m., too late to start school for elementary school students?
Members of the school board’s Administrative Services Committee will weigh such questions today when they meet to discuss possible changes to start times for schools, possibly for the 2015-16 school year.
Members of the committee requested an analysis in June showing the impact of all bell times starting 30 minutes later.
A report created by central office staffers shows the pros and cons of starting elementary schools at 9:30 a.m., instead of 9 a.m., and most middle schools and high schools at 8:00 a.m., instead of 7:30 a.m.
“Most feedback from high schools and middle school with 7:30 a.m., start times favor a move to an 8 a.m., start time, staffers wrote in the report’s executive summary.
However, the report said that some schools would like to keep their present schedules. Durham School of the Arts, for example, would like to maintain its 8:45 a.m. start time. But others, like the City of Medicine Academy, favor a change. City of Medicine officials would prefer changing the school’s start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The board has considered previously a proposal that only pushed up start times for high schools to 8 a.m., and another that flip-flopped start times, with elementary schools starting at 7:30 and middle schools and high schools starting at 9 a.m.

Conventional wisdom has long held, and research has suggested, that high school students learn better with later start times because they get more sleep.
That is one of the pros staffers cite in their report, but warned that school staff may not be wedded to that thinking.
“Most conversations with school staff, both internal to DPS and externally, did not reference more sleep for high school-aged students when responding to questions about bell schedules,” staffers wrote.
Some of the concerns noted in the report include the effect a later start time might have on after-school programs, elementary school children arriving home later than they already do, and the impact on parents’ work schedules.
Also, there was concern expressed about transportation, including the lengthening of bus routes due to travel during heavier afternoon traffic.
 Here are additional takeaways from the report’s executive summary:
External to DPS, high schools with an early start time seemed to prefer an early start time. High schools with a later start time seemed to prefer the later start. Staff, students and families have adjusted to the bell schedule they are currently on and did not express an overwhelming desire to change the current bell schedule.
 In a perfect scenario, schools could select their own bell schedule without regard for cost or other implications. In reality, our transportation system is designed to support a staggered bell schedule that forces our bell schedules to work together.
 Changes to bell schedules are riddled with pros and cons, many of which are determined by the viewpoint of those that are affected by the changes. We have to decide if the
desire/benefits from changing bell schedules outweigh the challenges associated with those changes.

***

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that City of Medicine Academy officials do not want to move the school’s start time. It has been correct in this version.