Anchorage School Board considers changing school start times

Anchorage School Board considers changing school start times
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 7:05 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s something that would impact every single person in the Anchorage School District. On Monday, during a district work session, the Anchorage School Board revisited the issue of changing school start times post-pandemic.

“Our panel will brief the board on prior efforts completed by ASD to adjust start times, the benefits and consideration for making adjustments, and while any major change like this involves tradeoffs, for a number of reasons, I think this is something the board should strongly consider,” ASD Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said.

Some scenarios the school board is considering include bumping back start times for all schools and starting younger students earlier in the day, before older students.

District consultant Shannon Bingham brought up the history of the school district potentially changing its start times, saying time changes were initially listed as a desired topic in 2016. A lot of work was said to have gone into potential policies by 2018, but the start time changes were not approved then.

For now, the board is still in the research phase for changing start times, but highlighted several key findings for making changes:

  • National research shows that middle school and high school students should not start school until after 8:30 am.
  • Middle and high school students who get more than eight or more hours of sleep are said to have fewer incidents of depression, have more energy, and make better decisions.
  • Research suggests that elementary students rise early and tire by mid-afternoon.

“I think it’s really important that we do — like you’re already doing — looking at the science and what it tells us about student growth, learning and sleep,” ASD Board President Margo Bellamy said.

A consensus was reached by school board members at the end of the meeting, but only to continue the research phase of a potential time change.

The school board said there has also been some confusion connected to potentially changing school start times. The board’s consideration of altering school schedules has nothing to do with making up school due to snow days earlier in the academic year, but rather is a new topic for this board, with different members from prior years.

When it comes to making up snow days, Bryantt made a recommendation — that is still pending approval — from the last school board meeting at the end of December.

“We are looking at extending the school day by 30 minutes and also taking three days in February and turning them into instructional days, and so collectively, that would make up for the time that we’ve missed for the snow storms that we had last year,” district Chief of Communications and External Affairs MJ Thim said.

Thim said that proposal is just a recommendation; it still has to be approved by the school board and the state for it to move forward.

“If this gets approved, this is going to start on January 30th, and that’s only a few weeks away, and so we want to make sure people have the information so that people can start to plan ahead,” Thim said. “But as soon as we know this has been approved we will get that communicated to our staff and our families.”

An Anchorage School District newsletter is expected to come out at the end of this week, with an item going over the recommendations and the status of the approvals.