Anchorage school start time changes passed, delayed one year

Anchorage school start time changes passed, delayed one year
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 8:03 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School Board made a major decision that would change the start time for all Anchorage School District students, affecting all students, teachers, and families in the district.

The board ended up amending and approving the adjustment to school start times, but they want more time for deliberation and implementation, meaning the changes will not go into effect until the 2024-2025 school year.

The recommendations from the ASD administration were based on national studies that show positive impacts when adjusting school start times.

Parents and volunteers have routinely shown up to public meetings voicing support and opposition that comes with this decision, as it would have substantial impacts to all involved.

The proposed school schedule that passed Tuesday night would run as follows:

  • Elementary school start times would be 8 a.m. with a release time of 2:30 p.m.
  • High school start time would be 8:45 a.m. with a release time of 3:15 p.m.
  • Middle school start times would be 9:30 a.m. with a release time of 4 p.m.

The times are based on research that shows optimized school start times suggesting elementary-aged students should start the day before middle and high school students; studies show that elementary students rise early and tire by mid-afternoon.

There was a lot of public testimony, many in opposition to the changes; some families of students have said this decision could be life-altering. Several public testifiers came out to voice their concerns.

“I have asked this question time and time again; who are the stakeholders supporting this change?” one parent asked.

“Many parents in our community depend on the current school start times to schedule their work and family obligations, and they have structured their work around these current school times,” said another parent.

One big concern has been the shortage of childcare and workers in that sector around the country. Others said they believe the research speaks volumes itself and agree with the changes.

The district’s chief of communications and external affairs, MJ Thim, said research reports various improvements that support changing the start times. One of the main influencers is research on sleep.

“It all really centered around sleep and how much sleep students are getting and the different age brackets and how that related to the different levels of education, whether it was elementary, middle or high school,” Thim explained.

In addition, school districts that changed to later secondary start times have improved GPAs, reduced tardiness, and higher test scores, among other enhancements.

The board voted to delay the implementation of the time changes to continue the discussion on what can be done to help those who need after-school childcare and other needs.