PSD enters next phase of school start time discussion

After combing through survey responses from more than 10,000 people, the Board of Education and District leadership have decided to move forward with a community scenario committee and community discussions about changing school start times. 

So far, the District has received generally positive feedback about starting middle and high school classes later in the morning, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Scott Nielsen explained to the Board at a recent meeting. 

PSD middle and high schools currently start between 7:25 and 8:15 a.m. The Board has asked the District to explore changing times to 8:30 a.m. or later, possibly starting in the 2019-2020 school year. Nielsen said the surveys show many in the community are familiar with research that shows teen students learn better when they get more sleep.  

At the meeting, Nielsen summarized the answers from more than 10,000 survey respondents including students, guardians, staff and community members. Nielsen said this is three times the district’s average survey response.

Approximately 85 percent of respondents said the issue of later start times for secondary schools was important. The majority of parents (85 percent from middle school and 87 percent from high school) picked 8 - 8:30 a.m. as the optimal start time with 3 -3:50 p.m. as the favored ending time.

 Approximately 39 percent of elementary parents indicated they prefer an earlier start time for elementary students, which could give the district some flexibility when developing start time scenarios, Nielsen said.

Respondents also highlighted common concerns about the logistics of changing school start times including impacts to child care, student jobs, after-school extracurricular activities and athletics, as well as reduced family time in the evening. Approximately 50 percent of high school students indicated they are involved in either PSD or community-based after school activities and athletics, and 33 percent said they have an after-school job.

Now that it has gathered initial feedback from the community, the District will move into the next phase of this process, which involves working with a community scenario committee comprised of parents from elementary, middle and high schools, teachers, classified staff, administrators and community members.

This committee will analyze the survey findings and create specific scenarios for possible new start times based on the values expressed by survey respondents. The committee will also factor in how changing school start times could affect elementary students, child care needs, extra- curricular activities and transportation operations within the district.

PSD will share recommended scenarios with the community in the fall via a survey while gathering additional input at community forums. Input will be shared with the Board of Education with a final decision expected in January 2019. 

Timeline of next steps:
•    April – June of 2018: School Start Time Scenario Committee will develop start time scenarios
•    August or September 2018: PSD will share these scenarios with the community
•    Fall 2018: PSD will gather community feedback on these scenarios via a second survey and community forums
•    December 2018 or January 2019: A decision will be made