School district recommended school start time is far from done deal
In June, after many longs days and collecting input and data, the Anchorage School District settled on two recommendations for suggested new school start times for students.
The main concern was high school students were not getting enough sleep and spending the first few hours of class imitating "The Walking Dead." Parents of elementary students voiced concerns of having their kids in school too early. Fears of safety and extra childcare fueled the movement to fight the change.
"The school board then came up with a third recommendation," Anchorage School Board President Starr Marsett said. "That's actually the recommendation that's been brought forth by ASD."
The new plan would push high school start times back a half hour to 8 a.m. Elementary school would start next at 8:45 a.m. followed by middle schoolers at 9:30 a.m.
"There are so many things we have to consider," Marsett said. "One, just the advantage of high schoolers going later. It's proven that they do better with more sleep or even starting a half hour later."
Another factor is deciding how to best handle the elementary school students. Anchorage has a very large Title One and low-income population.
"That really puts a stress on families when you change something," Marsett said. "It could affect their daycare. When you change something in the family, that stress is going to carry over into the child. The child then is not going to be able to perform as well at school."
Long days away from home lead to more behavioral issues.
"Kids just want to go home and play their video games or watch TV," Erika Armstrong with the YMCA before and after school programs said. "Longer days for these kids is draining on them. You can see it. We have more listening issues, we have more accidents with kids not paying attention to what they are doing. Some of these kids start their day with us at 7 a.m. and go to school and come back and stay until 6-6:30 p.m.-- that's a really long day."
Even a change of 45 minutes still has some parents concerned.
"Some of the moms are saying it affects their work schedule, so some are upset about it," Parent Asia Harmeling said. "Some parents are upset about it and others, it might work out."
If a change is voted on, some parents say the community will have to rally to accept and work with the change.
"From what I've seen and heard," parent Jeremy Wetherell said, "the hardest thing for most people is how they are going to adjust their work schedule and caring for their kids. Seems to me that that's for of the responsibility of our community to fall back and support parents. Maybe offer different work schedules so they can continue to work and also be a parent."
When it comes to middle schoolers, the overall thought is the more time they are alone, the more prone they are to mischief.
"If they are unsupervised, they tend to get into more trouble," Marsett said. "Not all of them-- but we're taking everything into consideration."
The school district will now send out the recommendation to parents and the community to gain more public feedback over the next month. The topic will be a non-action item during a school board meeting in September so that there may be testimony. A final vote on the recommendation will happen in October.
"In October the board will vote on this particular recommendation," Marsett said. "There could be amendments but if that motion fails, then nothing changes."
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