School Start Times Discussion

The Anacortes School Board plans to review research and engage the community in a conversation about school start times. Any proposed change would be for the 2019-2020 school year at the earliest. 

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. 

How did this idea come about? Why now?

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.

What does the research say?

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.


Perceived benefits

  • 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 proposed start times?

Optimal start times would be based on a careful transportation study, but ideally and generally, secondary schools would start at 8:30 with elementary schools starting at 9:30. Fidalgo Elementary might naturally be the exception, and its start time would be determined by the transportation study results.

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.

What about missed instruction time for high school student who are dismissed for sports/activities?

The district is sensitive to any missed instructional time as it already occurs at the high school level. A survey will be conducted to assess the actual impact of students missing class time due to athletic participation. In addition, Bellingham school district is trying to negotiate later start times for league and district games.

Costs? 

There are both financial and non-financial considerations. The district would attempt to achieve the move in a cost neutral way, but there might be costs in providing before-school activities, for example.

Perceived costs

  • Impact on parent work schedules

  • Limitations on after school employment

  • Changes in traffic patterns

  • Reduction of student involvement in afterschool activities

  • Impact on teacher schedules

  • Financial costs incurred by families

Resources 

District Feasibility Study
American Academy of Pediatrics

Questions/ Comments? 

Superintendent's Office - (360) 293-1211 or mwenzel@asd103.org



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