Later School Start times

On February 21, 2019, the Anacortes School Board unanimously approved of moving to a later school start time for secondary students. This change takes effect with the 2019-2020 school year. 

Nationwide and across Washington state, a number of school districts are moving to later start times for their middle and high schools. The main reason, based on brain and sleep research, is the development of the teenage brain. 

In 2017, a parent group, supported by 200 parents, asked the superintendent and school board to consider moving high school and middle school start times to 8:30 or later. They had researched area schools that had made the move and had looked at nationwide data on teenage sleep patterns. Dr. Wenzel met with the group to discuss the idea and committed to continuing the research via a feasibility study and to engage the community in a discussion around later start times.


In 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report recommending secondary schools start later to better align with teenage sleep patterns. As a result, many districts around the nation moved to later start times for their middle and high schools. 

Research shows that teenagers require 9.25 hours of sleep for optimal health and that mental wellness directly correlates to optimal sleep. In addition, studies have shown that the biological “waking” clock shifts during preteen years resulting in later tiredness (11:00 p.m.) and therefore later “awake” time in the morning.


  • Increased daily attendance

  • Reduction of tardiness rates

  • Improved grades

  • Higher graduation rates

  • Lower rates of depression/suicidal thought

  • Lower rates of car accidents

  • Fewer referrals for disciplinary action

  • Improved standardized test scores

  • Fewer students visiting student health care centers

What are the new start times (2019-2020 school year)? 


Start Time

End Time

Fidalgo Elementary

9:05 AM

3:35 PM

Mount Erie Elementary (no change)

9:00 AM

3:30 PM

Island View Elementary (no change)

9:05 AM

3:35 PM

Whitney Early Childhood Center (no change)

9:10 AM

3:40 PM

Anacortes Middle School

8:00 AM

2:40 PM

Anacortes High School

8:05 AM

2:45 PM

Cap Sante High School

8:05 AM

2:35 PM

In researching and conversing with other schools, the big takeaway is to not start before 8:00 a.m. and to avoid ending after 4:00 p.m. Before school care and after school activities are also factors that will be considered when building the schedule.



Because of transportation, we could not make an 8:30 start time work, as recommended by the research. However, we believe that a 30 to 35-minute later start at middle and high school will have a net positive impact. Many students responded last year that even a 30-minute later start would benefit their well-being. Teachers also note a dramatic difference on late-start Wednesdays when students are able to get more sleep.


  • Impact on parent work schedules

  • Limitations on after school employment

  • Changes in traffic patterns

  • Reduction of student involvement in after-school activities

  • Impact on teacher schedules

  • Financial costs incurred by families

Does aligning elementary schedules help?

Yes. It particularly helps with our staff development efforts, as it allows teachers from different schools to meet and learn together. We hear from teachers regularly about the benefit of moving in this direction.  

Why can't we just flip elementary and secondary to allow elementary to start at 7:30 or 8 and secondary to start at 8:30 or 9?

The challenge with this is transportation and after-school schedules. We need an hour between elementary and secondary start times to accommodate transportation. A 7:30 or 7:45 start would require some children to be picked up before 7, while an 8 am start time for elementary would mean a 9 am to 3:50 pm secondary schedule. Safety and family schedule considerations for elementary students and after-school commitments (athletics, activities, jobs) for secondary students make such a schedule untenable. This is why it's challenging for us to get to the 8:30 start time recommended by the American Pediatric Association for teenagers.

What about late-start Wednesdays?

Late-start Wednesdays are an important opportunity for our teaching staff to meet to discuss student learning. This time allows teachers to create assessments, compare student work and plan upcoming instruction. We will assess this schedule as well before making a final determination. 

What does the sleep research show?

Research shows that teenagers require 9.25 hours of sleep for optimal health and that mental wellness directly correlates to optimal sleep. In addition, studies have shown that the biological “waking” clock shifts during preteen years resulting in later tiredness (11:00 p.m.) and therefore later “awake” time in the morning.

The proposal has Fidalgo’s schedule starting at 9 a.m. instead of 8:15. what about parents who rely on the school’s earlier start to accommodate work or family schedules?

We understand that Fidalgo’s early start can benefit parents’ work or family schedules -- and that a 45-minute later start could create challenges. We would work with community partners such as the YMCA to try to accommodate community needs.  

What about impacts on athletics, after-school activities, jobs, etc?

We understand that a 30 to 35-minute later release at the middle and high school creates additional pressure, particularly on community groups who use our facilities. This year is particularly challenging with the loss of the high school gym and packed schedules at the middle school gym and other facilities. In discussing next year with our administrative team, we believe the completion of the high school project will mitigate some of the pressure that a later start would bring. We understand that a later start could have some impacts on student jobs.

What about the loss of in-class time for students who will miss more instruction when they are released for athletics or activities?

We’ve examined fall, winter and spring sports/activities calendars to reflect on this question. It is true that students active in these pursuits would miss 4-5 hours more of class per season with a 30-minute later start. 


Additional Research - 30 minute shift
Synthesis of Community Feedback Meetings - January 2019
Presentation - Community Feedback Meetings- January 2019

Survey Responses - November 2018
Survey Responses - Parents, Students and Staff- May 2018

District Feasibility Study
American Academy of Pediatrics



Please contact the Superintendent's Office at (360) 503-1211 or with any questions or concerns you may have.

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