Jeffco schools consider changing start times

Task force recommended 8 a.m. as the earliest schools would start

Posted 2/13/19

Following a presentation by the Jeffco Schools Start Time Task Force Feb. 7, the Board of Education will be considering changing school start times so that no school begins before 8 a.m. “I think …

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Jeffco schools consider changing start times

Task force recommended 8 a.m. as the earliest schools would start

Posted

Following a presentation by the Jeffco Schools Start Time Task Force Feb. 7, the Board of Education will be considering changing school start times so that no school begins before 8 a.m.

“I think that there is a lot of consensus that says later start times is a win for middle and high school students as it is related to their health,” said board member Amanda Stevens. “I believe that this is a positive change.”

Research says that a later school start time positively impacts alertness, mental health, wellness and behavior in high school and middle school students, which means students are better prepared to learn.

The task force launched in spring 2018 to consider the complexities of the decision to alter secondary school start times to later in the day. This was after Cherry Creek Schools implemented a similar change and the Littleton Public Schools voted for a change to begin with the 2018-19 school year.

After a year of research and community outreach done by the task force, they came to the board with three official recommendations. The first was to establish a policy beginning in Fall 2020 that all middle schools in Jefferson County would start on or after 8 a.m.; and all high schools start at 8:30.

Currently, 10 of the 23 Jeffco middle schools start at or after 8 a.m. Longview High is the only high school in the district to start at 8:30. Six of the 22 high schools start at or after 8 a.m.

The second recommendation was to hire a firm or consultant this spring to help implement the recommended start times.

The third option was that for the interim, the district shift all current school schedules a half hour later than they currently are, starting August 2019.

“Right now, we have the data saying that the community values a change,” said Katie Winner, Arvada parent and task force chair.

Winner was referencing a survey conducted by the task force, which drew a response from 4,254 community members. According to those surveyed, 74 percent say the earliest acceptable high school start time should be 8 a.m. or later.

Additionally, 44 percent of respondents said the change should be a district-wide change.

During public comment Feb. 8 three community members spoke out against the change. Two called into question the validity of the survey and the disruption on family times.

Bear Creek High School junior Malina Madden talked about how the change would negatively affect her and her peers.

“I and every student I have asked are all opposed to changing start times to 8:30 or later for high school,” Madden told the board. She told them that students who drive themselves to school currently don’t have to drive in rush hour traffic, but that would change if school started later. Fear of driving, she said, causes stress for many high school students.

She also talked about the conflicts it would cause with after-school activities and after-school jobs, pointing out that many evening shifts start at 4 p.m.

Additionally, Madden talked about the daily stresses high school students deal with.

“There are many factors that affect middle and high schools students and getting more sleep won’t correct this,” she said. “It’s not going to make the bully any nicer.”

Moving forward

While the board felt changing times could be a positive change for students, they did not feel there was enough information in the presentation to make a decision yet.

Dan Cohan, community superintendent for Jeffco schools, said that as each layer of the change was pulled back, more complexities were revealed.

“We’re not able to answer every single question about transportation costs, how routes would change,” Cohan said. “To really look at this district-wide and analyze all the complexities of transportation, it is going to take more time than we’ve had so far.”

The same goes for how this would impact elementary schools.

Board members Susan Harmon and Ali Lasell raised concerns about the effects the later times would have on after-school activities and athletics, calling out sports like hockey and swimming, which use community rinks and pools for practices, games and meets.

“I honestly don’t think we can responsibly make any decision unless we know what the real costs are,” Board member Brad Rupert said. “I need to know: Are we going to need to hire more bus drivers and have more buses? Are we going to spend more for the facilities for after school projects? You can’t make a decision like this without asking what the real costs are and how that fits into our ongoing budgets.”

The next step in the conversation, Superintendent Jason Glass said, is for district administration to craft a draft implementation plan on what the change would look like and bring it back to the board for more deliberation this budget season. This would allow the board to make a decision on if they want to invest in doing a more detailed analysis on the topic.

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