Monday, November 20, 2017

School Start Time Challenge

Research points us in the direction of starting schools at a later time for middle school and high school students, yet to do that at the expense of our elementary students or "morning larks" as they were described by Dr. Judith Owens seems to me to be a price too high when we think of the need to educate all children well.

Why can't we come up with a solution where young elementary school students are able to start school as early as 8 and finish by 2 or 2:30 while their older high school and middle school community members begin at 8:30, the sweet spot for teens noted in the sleep research. How could we make this happen? What will it take? Why would we want this? What's holding us back?

Sports is a big dilemma since sports are based on an earlier high school start--to respond to the research, sports programs need to be pushed later into the day. I don't see why this can't happen since research shows that middle school and high school students who get enough rest do stay up later, and therefore, it seems to me that they'll be able to participate in sports at later times.

Elementary students, on the other hand, are highly energized early in the day--that's their best time to tackle the rigorous standards-based curriculum posed to help them develop a strong foundation of learning-to-learn skills and foundation knowledge, concept, and skill. To start school later for elementary school students is to miss out on their best learning time, and to use that time for other tasks that may tire them out, but not necessarily contribute to the rich learning possible. Just as it's great to maximize later school starts for high school students, it seems that it's equally advantageous to begin school on the early side for elementary school students.

Yet transportation is a costly issue that impacts school start times, and to hire more busses costs money, but if academic success is important, perhaps that money is well spent. That's for community members to decide. Or perhaps, there are different ways to think about transportation, ways that make optimal times for elementary, middle school, and high school students. I'm not a bus expert, and would have to do a lot of research to see if there is a better solution.

As it is, we're having difficulty fitting in the needed teaching/learning during the optimal 8:45-12pm slot of energized time students have at school, and to push it forward another 15 minutes to 9:00am will make it more difficult to maximize the potential that exists. That said, a decision will be made and I'll follow through. I just hope it's a decision that honors what elementary school students need as much as what the middle school and high school students need. That would be a fair and equitable decision.

Some possible decisions to, perhaps, lead to this equitable decision might include the following:
  • Create a new sports league of schools that start high school and middle school at 8:30 - 9:00
  • Consider bus routes with multi-age students and drop off elementary school students first for an earlier start, then high school and middle school students
  • Start later and tell other schools you play sports with that your games have to be later
It seems like starting high school at 8:30 or 9:00 would give the busses time to pick up the elementary school students beforehand. Let's see what happens.