Some families relieved by idea of later school start times

Most proposals have later start times for middle and high schools and earlier start times for elementary schools
Nearly every comment at Tuesday's town hall addressing possible later start times for Anchorage public middle and high schools expressed support for the idea.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:46 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The bell could be ringing later for students soon and there are town halls and online surveys available to gauge how public input could impact a decision.

In a town hall on Tuesday, about 20 nonschool employees showed up at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School listening to research about how making start times later for some students would impact their overall health.

Many of the proposals presented to the school board have later start times for middle and high school students and earlier start times for elementary students.

The time change scenarios proposed by the Anchorage School Board range from an hour to as little as 15 minutes.

Not everyone is on the same page. Nearly every comment at Tuesday’s town hall was about the relief people would feel if start times were later in the day for middle and high school students.

“The whole point of school is to set up our kids for success in the rest of their life, and currently we’re setting them up for failure,” Laura Herman, an Anchorage resident, said. “I really hope that a change is happening ASAP.”

The pandemic brought with it many challenges, among them, making sure students are in school and there on time.

Shannon Bingham, a consultant for schools in Anchorage, says cities that have adopted later start times have had few issues across the board.

“It can make a huge difference if a student gets the recommended amount of sleep for their age category,” Bingham said. “They tend to be more alert in class. They tend to have mental health benefits where they are happier, more comfortable being in school.”

There are also many against the proposed time changes. In 2018, the school board voted against changing school start times, officials said at the town hall.

Some say moving start and end times at school will throw off schedules and take away time for families to spend with their kids.

Others are worried it could affect childcare. If an older sibling watches a younger one, earlier start times for elementary schools could leave some families in a lurch.

Another town hall is scheduled for Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the South Anchorage High School auditorium.

Another one is scheduled for Friday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mirror Lake Middle School multi-purpose room.