Debate on Anchorage school start times spills over into summer

Published: May. 21, 2018 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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National research shows that delaying school start times may improve the academic performance of some students, but some Anchorage parents are concerned about the implications of later start times.

"I think it's a terrible idea, to be honest," Jessica Miller, the parent of an ASD student said.

Miller grew up in Wasilla, where years ago, classes started later in the day. She says there are side effects.

"I speak from experience when I say, 30 minutes doesn't sound like a lot. Getting out of school later would make it hard to have dinner at a decent hour. It's already hard enough to have them get their homework done. By the time they get out of school, it would be dark," Miller said.

Some parents embrace the possible schedule change, according to the results of a telephone survey about school start times conducted by ASD consultant Hays Research Group.

The study showed almost 46 percent of those surveyed favored moving the start time back 30 minutes, but keeping the current schedule where high school students start earliest, followed by middle and elementary schools.

Nearly 38 percent of those surveyed favored starting 30 minutes later, but with elementary school beginning first.

"I think the secondary parents were very much in favor. The elementary parents were very much concerned,” Western Demographics President Shannon Bingham said. “We tried to mitigate some of those concerns in this second round of scenarios. But the scenario would still represent a change."

Either way, the data shows some level of community involvement and interest in furthering the discussion — however divided.

"I think it shows that we give our parents and community an opportunity to weigh in on the issue and consider their point of view,” Wendler Middle School Principal Brendan Wilson said. “A lot of these are issues that we can work around and some aren't, so it's just achieving that balance."

The issue will ultimately be decided by the Anchorage School Board, whose next goal is to narrow the choices down to one option, and begin discussions with the public in early June.