Change in school start times may impact Anchorage economy
The Anchorage School District wrapped up its three-week-long open house forum on suggested changes for school start times.
The studies presented by the school district show improved attendance, grades and health in high schoolers in grades 9 through 12 when they catch eight or more hours of sleep per night. The studies also show that more than half of the Anchorage high school student body is currently getting six hours of sleep or less per night-- a shocking result of the current day most students endure.
"I don't know about you, but I'm not worth a shoot if I'm running on six hours of sleep," Shannon Bighman with Western Demographics said. "Just think about how these kids are reacting to lack of sleep. Studies show most of them are going through the motions and not retaining anything they've learned until around 10 a.m."
The school district has provided the community with three options of school start time changes. The current format is also an option. In most scenarios, high schoolers are flip-flopped with elementary students. This would have elementary students starting at 7:30 a.m., followed by the middle schoolers, then the high schoolers around 9 a.m.
The results could have a direct impact on the Anchorage economy.
"We try to be flexible with our staff and make it so that everybody can balance being a parent with doing the work," Attorney Lea Filippi said. "It would be difficult for us to be completely flexible because we have so many people that require our services in the middle of the day."
The time switch would have families rearranging their current schedules with costs of daycare increasing, along with the prospect of more latchkey kids.
"We would see more latchkey kids, and the time they'd be home alone would increase," Bingham said. "It wouldn't be substantial. Maybe from an hour now to about an hour-and-a-half. Most daycare providers we spoke to say they would adjust their hours to accommodate."
Businesses that rely on student workers after hours would also have to make adjustments with scheduling.
"The question is how much of an impact would it have on the employers, on students being able to make part-time jobs after school," Owen Carey with Carey Homes said. "We also need to look at what are the positive impacts for education. I suppose that's what we need to concentrate on is what is better for the children and how to improve how they absorb their education."
The school district knows that changing the schedules will have a direct impact on the 48,000 students and 6000 employees who enter the district's 100 buildings five days a week.
"That number makes up one-sixth of the population of Anchorage," ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said. "We know this is a very big deal. On top of the 54,000 people entering our schools, this also impacts the people taking them to school or picking them up. The impact is wide."
The district will now take all of the information it has gathered and make a decision in mid-May or early June. The process could also take as long as October for a final decision. If a change is made, it will not go into effect until the fall of 2019.
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