ASD ready to put school start times to bed
The day after the Anchorage School Board voted against proposed new school start times, Anchorage School District officials say the topic may have become tired due to the delay before the vote.
"It's a major shift in our city," said ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop. "That's why we took it so globally. Yes, this vote and on school calendars was slow coming. We took them both seriously because they involve the whole community."
The research on school start times ended in May, but the school board deliberately waited through the summer to make a final decision.
"It would've been unfair to vote in the summer," Bishop said. "Families are gone on vacations so they waited. The board wanted to ensure that the wool wasn't pulled over anyone's eyes."
The school board and the school district agree with research showing that students do better in the classroom and in life with more sleep -- but suggest now wasn't the time to make any drastic changes. The school district spent 11 months gathering information, conducting open houses, scanning over research and talking with students, teachers and parents. The district spent around $100,000 on the topic that ultimately lands them right where they started.
"This was looked at 10 years ago and we gave it another shot," Bishop said. "If we believed that we could do something for our kids, then we had to make this more of just the district saying so. We had to talk to the families, talk to the experts, bring in research and talk to district's that have done this and had success."
The confusion Anchorage has seen isn't unique among towns considering start changes, according to Bishop.
"There hasn't been a district that we have studied that has made this move that didn't also have this kind of turmoil," Bishop said. "Likewise, once they changed, they liked it and were appreciative of making the change but it's that first step for which many school districts like ours, large and complex, have in making that decision. I'm not disappointed in how it was done."
School board members Alisha Hilde and Deena Mitchell both tried to pass amendments to the proposed recommendation.
"It's difficult that we aren't doing better for our youth," Bishop said." Medical studies gave us solid evidence that after adolescence our teens change. Their internal time clocks turn back about two hours. Knowing we could've done something about that is why we had different amendments. Again, it's just a major shift in the city."
While the process took almost twice as long in Anchorage then any other school district that conducted the same kind of research on school start times, Dr. Bishop says ASD did the right thing.
"Knowing that we really studied it and have an answer of why we are not doing it, that was very public, and in a big way public," Bishop said. "I'm sure everyone, like me, is ready to put this to bed and say, 'OK, we did our due diligence and we are going to move on' because there a lot of great things happening in the district."
You can find more on the school start time finding and voting results on ASD's website.
The school board also voted against giving teachers and students a full week off for Thanksgiving. Instead, the board voted to keep school calendars relatively the same for the next three years.
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