On Wednesday night, the Anchorage School District held the first of eight informational open house events for parents, students, staff and community members.

The school district is trying to gauge the interest and concerns many people have with changing school start times. The district is looking at all of its options in determining if high schoolers should start later in the morning.

"So far we've done 18 focus groups," Shannon Bingham with Western Demographics said. "Those groups totaled around 700 people. These meetings are different, they are open house meetings, we talk with people one on one and answer questions and they complete a survey and stay as long as they like."

Research done by the district shows a bevy of benefits for high schoolers starting their day a little later.

"For high school and middle school students, there is significant student performance and safety benefits," Bingham said. "Those benefits stem from starting school after 8:30 a.m."

Parents of elementary school students at Lake Hood Elementary shared concerns of their own. What benefits does changing school start times have for their kids? How safe is it to have elementary students running on the streets early in the morning, especially in the darker months. The change also messes with after-school care and potentially creates a longer day for the students.

Lauren Lessard has a child in kindergarten at Turnagain Elementary. She says it also takes away from critical family time.

"The whole morning routine-- which for us is great," Lessard said. "Which in Anchorage, in the winter time, when it's dark and you can cuddle up with your coffee and hot chocolate, that'll be gone. That'll just go to the wayside. I think for us working parents, there is enough guilt to accommodate schedules and time with your kids that losing seven-and-a-half hours per week is just unfathomable."

Besides time, money could also be lost with extra daycare costs and travel times involved with after-school daycare.

"For working parents that get off work at 5 p.m., some kids will be away from home for 10 hours," Lessard said. "They go to school at 7:30 a.m. and get out at 2 p.m. then to daycare for three hours? That's a long day and hours taken away from our family time."

"We're concerned about the early hours," Lake Hood Elementary parent Jenny Phillimore said. "My daughter likes going to school at 9 a.m. The time works for us best. The concern is childcare, as early as the new schedule is we'll have to change our work schedules."

The district has not made a decision on new start times and is using the open houses to gain community interest and concerns. A list of the remaining open houses can be found here.

The results from the open houses will be presented to the school board in mid-May. The school board anticipates a decision on school start times as early as June and as late as October. If the school district does decide on changing school start times, they would not go into effect until the 2019-2020 school year.

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