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Friday Sep 2, 16
New School Start Times for 2016-17 School Year

The BHM School District's new school start times will go into effect on Tuesday, September 6. The new school start times will be:

 

 

Elementary-7:45 a.m.-2:25 p.m.

Middle School-8:50 a.m.-3:25 p.m.

High School/Phoenix Learning Center-8:50 a.m.-3:25 p.m.

PRIDE Transitions-9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The district has been researching the possible school start time change since the fall of 2013. A School Start Time Task Force (made up of parents and district staff) made their recommendations to the school board in January of 2015. The recommendations were based on multiple research studies of adolescents, their sleep cycles and the positive effects for students in schools where later start times have been implemented for secondary students. The board was supportive of looking into the details of the recommendations and asked an administrative subcommittee to carry on the work.

The administrative subcommittee created an implementation timeline of tasks and people responsible to make those decisions. Administrators met with the bus company to review various start time options before the best option was determined.

During the staff workshop days, prior to the start of the 2015-16 school year, Drs. Kyla Wahlstrom and Conrad Iber from the University of Minnesota were invited to present their research findings to the BHM staff. Following that presentation, the superintendent and director of teaching and learning scheduled optional staff meetings at each school to further discuss the topic with employees and answer questions.

This fall, four public meetings were offered to provide more information about the proposal before bringing a recommendation to the school board on November 23, 2015 for final approval. Now that the board has approved the new start times, district administration will continue the next implementation steps needed to prepare for the change. More communication will be provided in the months ahead to keep parents and the public informed on the school start time changes.

You can read below more about the district's research and the studies on which they based their recommendations.

 

Professional Research on School Start Times


BHM Schools Researches School Start Times

Sleep is like food for the brain. If we starve it, bad things can happen. If we feed it, it can flourish.

Over the course of this past year, you may have read and heard news stories, both locally and nationally, about the research that has been conducted relating to adolescent sleep patterns and secondary school start times (middle and high schools). Sleep experts consider the average adolescent to be between the ages of 11 and 22.  Biologically speaking, when children reach puberty, they experience a shift in their natural sleep-wake cycles. For children who are of pre-pubescent age, they typically get tired around 8-9 p.m. For children who have gone through puberty, they typically get tired by about 10-11 p.m.

The brain is very complex and it is changing dramatically during adolescence. Teens are in a stage of development, and sleep is considered a very active and structured process. That is why there is strong urging from pediatricians around the country for secondary schools to consider starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) they believe the change will align school schedules to the biological sleep patterns of adolescents. Making the change will help increase the chance of an adolescent to get the recommended 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep they need.

The Research
The University of Minnesota conducted the earliest research on this topic from 1996-2001. In 1996, Edina Public Schools was the first in the country to shift to a later start time for secondary schools-shifting from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. They based their decision on medical research about the sleep cycle shift in teens. The change paid off. Student attendance improved and there was a decrease in tardiness. Students had less depression issues and they were less likely to visit the school nurse. Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota said that by the end of the first year, 92 percent of Edina parents preferred the later start time and found that their teens were easier to live with.

In 1997, Minneapolis School District followed Edina's example and shifted their secondary school start times-from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. While the socioeconomic backgrounds of students in an urban school were different from those in a suburban school, the biological difference did not exist; adolescent sleep cycles were the same. Minneapolis experienced an increase in student attendance, graduation rates improved, and there was a positive trend in a student's actual GPA (Grade Point Average).

The University of Minnesota conducted a more recent survey from 2009-13, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC funded the grant because they saw teen sleep deprivation as a public health problem, primarily as it relates to car crashes. Wahlstrom said that they also saw this as an opportunity to verify what was going on with academic performance of students. The study included over 9,000 students in grades 9-12 from Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming School start times ranged from 8 a.m. to 8:55 a.m.  The schools with the latest start times reported more students who got eight or more hours of sleep each night. Wahlstrom shared that for the purpose of the study, eight hours was used as a realistic amount of time for teens to sleep each school night, and it also is a pivotal point for risky behaviors. What they found was, students who got eight hours of sleep or more each night showed:

  • an improvement in attendance, standardized test scores and academic performance;
  • a decrease in tardiness, substance abuse, symptoms of depression and consumption of caffeinated drinks;
  • fewer discipline issues;
  • and a reduced number of car crashes involving teen drivers.


BHM Interested in a Change
The BHM Administrative Team began to study the topic during the 2013-14 school year. The team heard a presentation by Wahlstrom and her colleague Dr. Conrad Iber on the research from the 2009-13 U of M study that they helped conduct. With such compelling evidence of improvements in student performance, an administrative subcommittee was formed to continue to explore research and information from area districts and around the country. They also discussed possible district implications of a change.

The subcommittee wanted to include teachers and parents in the discussion, so a BHM School Start Times Task Force was organized and first met in October 2014. They were charged with the task of researching the information and determining if a change would be in the best interest for BHM Schools.  

The task force considered many positives and negatives about a change. They realized the benefits from the research such as improved attendance, behaviors and test scores. Also the fact that there are societal benefits such as reduced car accidents, increased learning and overall improved health and wellbeing of district youth. They also realized it could have an impact on day care and work schedules for families. There could also be concern for younger children waiting in the dark at a bus stop. Transportation will need to be given careful consideration in the decision making process to ensure student safety.  

Task Force Recommendations
The current school times are from 7:45 a.m.-2:20 p.m. for secondary schools and 8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for elementary schools. Given the research and information discussed by the task force, some of their recommendations to the school board at their January 12 workshop meeting are to:

  • Change BHM school start/end times
  • Consider the start time for secondary schools to be 8:30 a.m.-in order to capture the full benefits from the research findings, yet allowing for after school and evening activities to come to completion at acceptable times
  • Consider the start time for elementary schools to be 7:45 a.m. to alleviate the need for bus pickups any earlier than necessary, yet explore the advantages of staggered start times across elementary schools to reduce loss of academic learning time for those who shuttle to in-district choice programs
  • Examine the possibility and expense of a three-tiered start times, with the high school start time as the latest of the three
  • Reconvene the administrative subcommittee to begin researching the details regarding the specific start and end times for each school, along with other scheduling implications for groups such as: district employees, food service, KidKare, the bus company and more.
  • Use a variety of communication methods to inform the public
  • Hold informational meetings for parents and community members to get informed on the topic before the school board makes a decision


A New Normal?
BHM Schools' top priority is to make decisions that are in the best interest of students. Change is difficult and parents and students may be asked to find a "new normal". The benefits of the school start time change certainly outweigh the drawbacks. As Wahlstrom states, "This is not a fast decision. We need to focus on the child and not the system."

Mark Peterson, parent of four (two in elementary and two in high school), participated on the BHM School Start Times Task Force. "The most compelling piece of research for me were the studies of the sleep patterns of children and how the patterns changed as children got older and entered into puberty. Our youngest is bouncing out of bed at 7 a.m., but our teenagers can sleep until 10 a.m. or later."  

Dan Green was also on the task force and is a parent of one in elementary and two in the middle school. He understands the various concerns parents might have, but believes a change in school start times could benefit his kids. "I encourage people to approach the subject with an open mind and recognize that this analysis is only motivated by good intentions; to best position the students to perform their very best and get the most out of this very precious time in their lives that will be gone very quickly."

There is still a great deal to be discussed and determined as the district sorts through the research and information about changing school start times. If you would like more information about the research they studied, you can find it on the Teaching and Learning website.

Tuesday Oct 6, 15

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF - 98.02 KB)

BHM answers some frequently asked questions about the proposed school start time change.