Local teens welcome new school start times
Last spring, a student at West High School started an online petition to change the high school start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. throughout the Anchorage School District. Over 5,000 people signed the petition to urge to the school board to take a serious look at the issue.
The school board heard the request and looks to have a recommendation after working with the community and really crowdsourcing the topic.
"This decision encompasses so many stakeholders," Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said. "It's not going to cost us any more money, but it is an obstacle in that we have to have the correct times in between our three-tiered bus system."
The school board wants to work with the community to be sure the change is well researched and the stakeholders are communicated with well, people have their input on the best decisions made in the end.
"We've already identified six preliminary scenarios that would be a different order in which students start school," Shannon Bingham, President of Western Demographics said. "We're trying to model this without increasing our transportation costs."
The efficiency study, along with any recommendations for public input, is expected to take around six months.
"If we're going to address some of these things that are very emotional issues for a lot of parents, we tend to try to get those things done in a shorter period of time," Bingham said. "The start time, there is more benefit in being as inclusive as possible, so that will be a 16 to 18-month process. We're going to have to talk to everybody with the childcare issue probably at the top along with extracurricular activities up there as well."
Those concerns are shared by many high schoolers.
"On Monday's, I have violin practice from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., plus I have athletics, they wouldn't move extracurriculars would they?" Carmen Gordon-Rein, a freshman at West High said. "My main problem with it, I have, is I would have less time to do homework which would make me go to bed even later than I do."
If the district were to work out the after-school schedules, getting some extra time in the morning would be welcomed.
"It would be good, I defiantly need more sleep and I know of a lot of my friends do too," Carmen said. "I'm supposed to wake up before 6:30 and actually have time to get ready but usually I stay in bed until after 6:30. I won't leave the house sometimes until 7:10 or almost 7:20."
Carmen's older brother, Richard, also would welcome the extra time in the mornings.
"I feel tired as usual when I wake up," Richard Gordon-Rein said. "It's a daily routine, so it's just normal I guess. I usually set an alarm fairly early, but I sleep through it. Then my dad comes down and bangs on the door a couple times. Eventually, I roll out of bed."
Richard is also worried about what would happen to his after-school activities.
"I'm in cross-country skiing, so we are outside every afternoon and usually we go to Kincaid, and when we get back on the buses to come back to West at 4:30 p.m., already that is starting to get pretty dark. If it was pushed back to 5:30 p.m., I don't know what would happen with that."
Having enough time to rest between practices and doing homework is also a concern.
"My son has rolled out of bed at 7:10 a.m. and by 7:17 a.m. he's on his bike going to school," Jennifer Gordon, Carmen and Richard's mother said. "It's crazy, he's lucky he starts his day with pottery class. If he had to use his brain in the morning to do math or something, I think I would be pretty hard."
"Carmen actually leaves early and walks the halls," Bruce Rein, the teens' father said. "She says when she sees him, he's a zombie."
"Teenagers go to bed late," Jennifer said. "You're not going to get them in bed at 8 or 9 o'clock at night, you just can't, it won't happen. Biologically, their little systems wake up late at night and so, we can't fight that part. We can't get them to turn off the light at 9 or 10 o'clock at night. So, the alternative is to try to get them a decent amount of sleep, an extra hour in the morning."
Gordon says regarding this topic in the school district, regardless of how you feel, there is always a solution.
"I think there is always a solution and people come up with, oh well, the busing and the daycare and the sports and the activities and there are all these reasons why it wouldn't work, in the end, biologically, I think it's better for the teenagers," Jennifer Gordon said. "We can figure it out. People resist change. People don't want to make too many changes all at once. It is a series of changes that would have to occur. Start the day a half hour or 45 minutes earlier, I think everyone could adjust.