The name of the study said it all: \”Sleepmore in Seattle: Later School Start times Are Related to More Sleep and Performance in Students.\” In 2021 -17, Seattle Public Schools pushed back high-school start times by 55 minutes, from 7:50 a.m. to eight:45 a.m. Just like that, students slept an average of 34 more minutes every night as well as their grades went up 4.Five percent, researchers found.
It was yet another entry in a long bibliography of studies showing the advantages of a later start here we are at teenagers (including \”Rise and Shine\” by Jennifer Heissel and Samuel Norris, in this issue). This growing body of evidence is within line with broad expert consensus that early school days have been in conflict with adolescents' biological sleep patterns and want for Eight to ten hours rest an evening. In 2021, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine officially recommended that middle and schools start no sooner than 8:30 a.m. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been pushing for your same start-time threshold since 2021. And a 2011 study authored by the Brookings Institution discovered that delaying start times by one hour would cost $1,950 per student ($150 per year for 13 years), but result in $17,500 in additional lifetime earnings.
For a change that appears like a no-brainer, however, delaying high school times can be notably difficult to accomplish. By fall 2021, only 13 percent of public high schools followed the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation, based on the National Center for Education Statistics. In fact, U.S. high schools remained more prone to start before 7:30 a.m. than schools with younger children.
The crux from the matter is the fact that schools are a assortment of moving parts, from predawn janitorial and food-service prep to busing and afterschool activities. Family work routines in many cases are organized around school rhythms. Shifting secondary-school start times sends shock waves through those systems.
\”Schools really are a huge a part of a family's life,\” said Deb Putnam, Boston coordinator for Start School Later, a nonprofit advocacy group. \”They drive so much.\”
Boston Public Schools offers a cautionary tale for changing start times. Following the district announced a plan in 2021 to begin most high schools later and elementary schools earlier, furious parents packed school committee meetings. People in the town council and local civil-rights leaders asserted that the new schedules would imperil lower-income families' job security. The college superintendent, Tommy Chang, eventually rescinded the decision. The turmoil was widely considered to be an issue in Chang's early departure in the job six months later.
Nonetheless, districts continue to make and stick to similar schedule changes. How can communities prepare for the shift, and just what have districts completed to ensure new start times they fit in place as smoothly as you possibly can?
I took a detailed look at practices in three school districts to discover. They're: Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota, an assorted urban district of 38,000 students who speak 125 languages in your own home; Kanawha County Schools in West Virginia, which serves 26,000 students in the capital city of Charleston and surrounding rural communities covering 913 square miles; and Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana, which enrolls 29,000 students. Two of these districts-Kanawha County and Fort Wayne Community Schools-have already pushed back high-school start times. Saint Paul is in the homestretch of the years-long effort to do so. Here's what I learned.
Because of the price of transportation, many districts stagger school start times so their fleets of buses can make multiple runs, called \”tiered\” scheduling: elementary schools previously, middle schools at another, and schools in a third. Typically, when administrators intend to move high-school start times later, they opt to flip busing schedules with elementary schools, giving students earlier start times. However, that multiplies the anticipated impacts: districts hear complaints not only about the way the changes will affect teenagers' afternoon activities but also about the safety of small children waiting for buses at nighttime, the practicality of moving bedtimes earlier, and also the mismatch between earlier dismissals and families' work schedules. \”School's done at three o'clock and no one's off work,\” said YMCA of Fort Wayne chief operating officer Chris Angellatta, whose organization runs afterschool programs. So families convey more hours of childcare to cover-which is especially tough if they've relied on an older sibling returning home first.
West Virginia's Kanawha County instituted new school start times at the outset of the 2021 -19 school year. About half from the primary schools already begun before 8 a.m., so some administrators thought adjusting the rest of these to start early wouldn't be so tough. And in social-media posts in January 2021, some elementary-school families praised the new schedule: \”Love the start times, we can make a start promptly,\” one mom wrote on the local news outlet's Facebook page. But more families complained. The first bus times mean more parents are driving their kids to school, they wrote, snarling traffic. Some parents had heard that children were falling asleep at school; others wrote that they barely got to see their kids before bedtime. \”Elementary school children should not be making a bus at 6 a.m. Can we apply certain good sense here,\” one woman posted.
In Saint Paul, the prospect of moving elementary-school start times earlier prompted such a negative reaction-it seemed to \”pit schools against each other\” according to local board of education member Steve Marchese-that the board put off changing the schedule many times. One strategy it considered would have allowed the district to let all schools open late. Older students would have used passes to ride the regional public-transit system rather than taking traditional school buses. It can't have saved money, Marchese said, but \”then we're able to run a two-tier system\” of yellow buses. Unfortunately, the transit system leaders remained firm that their buses couldn't accommodate a significant influx of students, he explained. The program approved for fall 2021 continued to call for early elementary start times, which roughly 1 / 2 of families had opposed in earlier district surveys.
When changing start times, it's crucial for districts to try to anticipate their effects and lessen the impact on families-especially those with lower incomes, who generally have less flexibility in their schedules. Otherwise, they risk sending the message Putnam sensed in Boston: \”The perception of the community was, 'You're reducing the bus budget by looking into making me pay for daycare,'\” she said. (Boston Public Schools didn't react to requests for comment.)
Officials in the Saint Paul and Fort Wayne districts made coordinated efforts with municipal and community partners to help parents manage safety, sports, and childcare. For example, Saint Paul city government is installing lighting in additional municipal fields to allow them to be utilized later into the evening. More Fort Wayne sports teams (and some clubs) now meet before school.
All three districts have focused on improving safety for elementary-age children catching early buses. Saint Paul rearranged routes so some younger students possess a shorter walk for their stops, district chief operations officer Jackie Turner said, and it is providing reflectors for bags and jackets. In addition, the city is beginning a long-term project \”to set up street lights and install sidewalks\” where they don't exist, she said.
In West Virginia, Kanawha County pupil transportation executive director Brette Fraley thought the brand new timetable was at itself safer. It's simpler and much more coordinated, he explained, and that has \”allowed us to construct more hours in to the schedule to really make it just a little safer, just a little slower.\” In addition, the district has installed new safety lighting on 50 buses serving students on rural routes. The lights shine in 2 directions to illuminate pathways for college students getting on and from the bus. The district also added new blinking \”STOP\” arms on 10 buses.
Perhaps most significant, the Fort Wayne and Saint Paul districts expanded childcare for elementary students. In Fort Wayne Community Schools, a fee-based afterschool program operates by the local YMCA. The agency now serves 1,200 students in nearly 30 sites, compared to 300 -350 students in two as many sites previously, said Angellatta. He anticipates further growth.
Saint Paul Public Schools runs its very own fee-based afterschool program, called Discovery Club. The district is surveying parents to recognize where you can expand. \”We're looking to come up with a really cost-effective, if not free, program,\” Turner said. The machine also offers discussed expanding its offerings with the help of the Boys & Girls Clubs from the Twin Cities, that has \”committed that we are going to be there for kids,\” said president and leader Terryl Brumm.
\”We might need to add staff. We may need to add extension sites,\” she said.
Although Kanawha County seems to have been less vocal about this issue, \”the district also planned for additional childcare staff and hours,\” district spokeswoman Briana Warner said. \”Teachers were put in areas of need and times were adjusted where required to permit additional service hours.\”
Districts also have addressed some concerns by providing information. Some Fort Wayne parents worried that the later start time would teach their children to be lazy and ill-prepared for the workplace. \”There was just some education around what do jobs look like these days,\” district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. \”They're not necessarily starting a 6 a.m. factory job.\” Saint Paul officials are going out that the earlier schedule might help parents who've to be at the office early and who have been spending money on before-school care. Brumm of the Boys & Girls Clubs is touting the advantage of additional time within the agency's care, saying she's \”seen a much better outcome\” with more amount of time in afterschool programs.
Finally, Saint Paul is offering an out. Each attendance zone will have a minumum of one 9:30 a.m. elementary option, Turner said, and recruiting is trying to make certain that staff can transfer to different schools if required. Nor has the district quit hope that it'll be able to move elementary-school start times later again: it is still pressuring the general public transit agency to accommodate high-school students, Marchese said. Similarly, the Kanawha County Board of Education has promised to ascertain if there's any way to maneuver elementary schools later, Warner said.
Change of any kind can be a tough sell: families often prize hard-won stability and predictability over promised improvements they haven't yet seen for themselves. But a research from the potential opportunities to capitalize on sleep science and shut efficiency gaps in transportation scheduling might help districts create a strong case to the public.
Several officials said they'd seen how research on teenagers' biological clocks and sleep needs can convince opponents. For Sissonville Senior high school principal Ron Reedy in West Virginia's Kanawha County, the alpha and omega of his pitch to oldsters and the own staff was that the later schedule benefited students. \”We like a society have a responsibility to the youth, and whatever is best for the children needs to be the top directive,\” he said- regardless of the inconvenience for adults.
\”Do the study, present it on its face,\” he advised. \”A reasonably minded individual is likely to be in a position to look at this and discover no counterarguments.\”
It helps you to present such data in early stages. Looking back on which happened in Boston, Putnam of Start School Later rued the truth that the district released an analysis of racial equity and school start times once angry parents were already crowding meetings. \”If they had put that [out] earlier in the conversation – and discussed how disparities exist,\” she said, \”it may have helped it play out a little differently.\”
Sometimes making the case means referring to budgets, which may be well-received if done carefully and when the brand new schedules actually will save money. Fort Wayne was motivated to alter start times by \”a have to cut transportation expenses,\” Stockman said. The decision allowed the district to transition from a two- to some three-tier bus timetable. Only then did the research come up: \”Someone had to go first, and just based on the research, we decided to be more good for possess the high-school students [start later],\” she said. The district simultaneously began enforcing a no-bus insurance policy for students who lived near school and restricting ale students who do ride the buses to alter their routes home depending on their after-school plans. \”That was a lot harder for parents,\” Stockman said.
In Kanawha County, even though the superintendent cited sleep research in announcing his decision to change school start times, officials have since emphasized the logistical advantages to the district. The brand new system requires fewer buses and drivers to pay for the rural district's sprawling territory, which requires driving as much as 18,500 miles per day, transportation director Fraley said. For example, the district started the entire year 30 drivers short due to a boom in oil and gas jobs, and \”if we had been underneath the old bell schedule we'd not have access to had enough drivers to have school.\”
Communication with families goes for both. Outreach can backfire when districts aren't willing to consider what families say. Boston elementary-school parents generally said in a district survey that they wanted later start times and high-school parents preferred 8 a.m. or earlier-and plenty of families were furious once the district announced schedules that did the alternative. Since the district had brought on a team from MIT to redo the scheduling, parents asserted their lives appeared to be ruined by an algorithm.
As far as Kanawha County school board member Ryan White can recall, administrators did not formally invite parent comment before announcing or implementing the brand new start-time plan. He regrets that now. \”I think it might have maybe given people much more of a feeling that they could voice their concerns,\” he said, and \”maybe prepare the general public more for what was going to happen.\”
Saint Paul Public Schools has already established a long runway-and used it. As soon as 2010, the then superintendent discussed and then officially tabled the problem. Administration studied the issue in 2021, then braked in reaction to parent concerns. It emerged for any vote prior to the local school board the year after but was defeated 4 -3. Meanwhile, other local districts like Minneapolis and Wayzata were successfully changing their high-school start times, which kept the issue in the local news headlines without forcing families in Saint Paul to weather the disruption.
The district opted to check an 8:30 a.m. start time at just one high school in 2021. It provided free transit passes so students could ride city buses to school. The experience was sufficiently positive-the school had a record-high number of students around the honor roll, and students reported greater participation in afterschool clubs and jobs, according to local news reports-that Saint Paul expanded the experiment to some second senior high school.
The new schedule was initially not welcomed by Saint Paul parent Arline Hubbard and her son Sean, now a senior at the initial test site, Johnson Secondary school.
\”When we started talking about the modification, I was so against it,\” Hubbard said. Then she saw that her teenager really had an easier time getting out of bed. He said he found it simpler to pay attention in class.
When his school started earlier, \”once school was over the day did seem to feel longer,\” Sean said. However, also, he remembered everyone attempting to make use of the bathroom at once before school, seeing his classmates fall asleep, and \”not really being completely focused\” until third period. Having a later start time, he said he is \”getting better grades and [feeling] more energized and prepared for college.\”
Disrupting teenagers' family caregiving responsibilities would be a major concern in Saint Paul, but the Hubbard family found the brand new start time did not hinder Sean's babysitting his nephew, a pre-kindergartner who starts school at 7:30 a.m. Sean helps his nephew leave to college within the mornings, and Johnson's 3 p.m. closing time is still early enough that he can help babysit afterward.
In all, families saw that change wasn't as disruptive as some had feared, and ultimately, in 2021 the district approved changing most school start times. Even so, leaders built in a two-year transition period before the decision would work. Which was pushed back in 2021, to provide a brand new superintendent time for you to get up to hurry.
At least, district chief operations officer Turner said, districts should allow greater than a semester and a summer. \”Any [big] decisions past late winter, like February, you should make for the next school year,\” she said.
Despite Saint Paul Public Schools' resolve for parent engagement, there wasn't any point in looking to get complete buy-in, said Turner.
\”If we were making this decision based on popularity, we wouldn't did it,\” she said. \”We didn't approach our engagement using the understanding that we were going to attempt to obtain a 90 percent or an 80 % [agreement] rate.\”
Broad change is sometimes only achieved as a mandate. In taking a look at experiences in changing school start times elsewhere, Turner concluded that \”there's more value in actually doing the work,\” she said.
Marchese, the Saint Paul board member, agreed.
\”Some folks said it isn't equitable to alter it, and some said, 'Well, it isn't equitable the way it is now,'\” he explained. \”There's only so much you can do about the fact we have 38,000 kids and 38,000 various ways that families organize their lives.\”
So what goes on after new schedules go into effect? It's too soon to consider students' test scores in West Virginia, but the quantity of students marked tardy at Sissonville Senior high school has declined noticeably, Reedy said. Bus drivers have filed fewer bus behavior write-ups for younger students, said Fraley. However, at a school board meeting in January, students from Herbert Hoover High School complained about the later dismissal times, stating that they interfered with afterschool jobs.
\”Some students need to work in to help their family pay regular bills,\” junior Cari Hively told the board, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
In Fort Wayne, officials have not seen \”a dramatic rise in test scores or anything like that,\” said Stockman, the district spokeswoman. Initially, the number of students marked \”tardy\” declined, however the effect was temporary.
There has been a positive effect on student safety for teenagers driving to school, she said-the extra 90 minutes sometimes let ice, fog, or snow melt or burn off. And students are simply awake. \”First period underneath the old system was a wash,\” she said. \”It was a real find it difficult to get kids to engage.\”
Occasionally, Stockman still hears from parents who are unhappy about how very little time their high-school students have after school, or who say they don't have more sleep simply because they need to stay up later. Some coaches continue to be upset about how the late start has affected their teams' practices and games. But \”most people just make it work,\” she said.
\”I can't say I've heard lots of complaints. I think individuals have adapted to it,\” the YMCA's Angellatta said of Fort Wayne families.
That's what Saint Paul's Catherine Nolet, the mother of the pre-K student at J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, is expecting to do next fall once the school's start time shifts earlier by one hour, to 7:30 a.m.
She isn't getting excited about it. \”We're not morning people,\” she said. But she and her husband chose not to move their son for an elementary school with a later start time, even though it would be nearer to home. Saint Paul's long transition period gave them lots of time to get used to the idea and eager for the logistics.
\”We knew the time would change when we chose the school,\” she said. \”For us, Personally i think the school itself is more important than the start time. We'll adjust.\”