PSD to study changing school start times

Head shot of Dr. Sandra SmyserFor many parents in our community, mornings can be a challenge: rushing around the house, getting lunches packed and shuttling kids to school, all before the school bell rings. And whether your student is one who gets up early or one who has to be pulled out of bed at the last minute, starting school early in the morning is something many Poudre School District families deal with.

For the past few years, PSD board members have been talking about high school start times, with some parents joining the conversation, advocating for later start times for teenagers. As part of this continuing conversation, PSD plans to explore and consider the issue this year after talking with our community about it.

Research indicates high school students often aren’t ready to learn at 7:30 in the morning and perform better when they get more sleep. The American Medical Association came out a few years ago with a recommendation for teens is after 8:30 a.m. Currently, PSD high schools and middle schools start between 7:25 and 8:15 a.m. These bell schedules are driven by a cost efficient three-tier transportation system in which the same buses take high school students to school, then pick-up middle school students and then run elementary school routes.

But changing school start times is not a simple discussion or just about transportation. Many factors impact school bell schedules like athletics, after-school activities, child care, curriculum and state requirements for student time in class. External factors to consider include teen workforce issues involving local businesses, parent work schedules and traffic patterns.

In January, the Board of Education agreed with PSD’s proposed plan to study changing school start times this year. Board members emphasized they favored consideration of budget neutral options, wanted to see options that had middle and high schools starting no earlier than 8:30 a.m., hoped for minimal impacts to elementary school students and believed that community engagement was critical.

PSD’s plan for this community conversation includes soliciting feedback from various stakeholder groups through surveys, the first one scheduled for late February, as well as creating a community committee to analyze impacts and recommend potential scenarios.

I recognize that this topic will impact at least half, if not all, of PSD’s 35,000+ families and staff, which is why I am committed to listening with an open mind, making sure diverse voices are heard and keeping my eye on the end game: doing what is right for all PSD students.

Watch your email inbox for a link to the first survey, set to run February 26 through March 9. Don’t get emails from PSD? No problem! Email and ask to be on our key communicators email list.

The school start time discussion is gaining momentum around the state, with several nearby districts either implementing new bell schedules this year or changing them for next year. Before we make any decision, we need to make sure we have factored in all considerations, listened to our community with sincerity and looked at how this will impact all PSD students. We are just getting started.