District hard at work planning future school start times

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Many students find it difficult to wake up for school; a later start time would allow teenagers to get more sleep. (Photo illustration: C. Richey)

By Zoe Vikstrom,
BlueDevilHUB.com Staff–

After months of deliberation, the DJUSD school board decided on Dec. 17 to wait until the 2017-18 school year to change school start times, and has been working since the beginning of 2016 on updating the daily bell schedule to ensure student health and adequate sleep.

The district will spend the upcoming school year (2016-17) finding a schedule that will allow for a later start time without losing any instructional time. The goal is to start school around 8:30 a.m. and to end seventh period around 3:30 p.m.

One possibility for a schedule that accommodates this variety of needs is to have a block schedule more days of the week, which would cut down on the time it takes to transition between periods, saving around 25 minutes.

School Board President Madhavi Sunder said the committee is considering many factors, such as sports and clubs, when looking for an improved schedule.

“Right now we have a committee looking at different schedules–for example a block schedule–to have the same amount of instructional time in a different format,” Sunder said. “They are looking for the best schedule for health needs, extracurricular needs and educational needs.”

Superintendent Winfred Roberson said the committee is taking the concerns of parents and students into consideration as well.

“[We are] developing a schedule that allows for a later start time and that also maintains other important values that have been identified by students, staff and community shareholders,” Roberson said.

The DHS staff is also working to change this semester’s finals week schedule.

“On Dec. 17, members of the DJUSD Board asked administration if the traditional 7:50 a.m. start times could be moved back later in the morning. Both site and district administration agreed that the answer is ‘yes,’ ” Roberson said.

Numerous studies and an abundance of research have found that the majority of teenagers do not get a healthy amount of sleep, and the school board is adjusting the schedule in hopes of changing this.

“The biggest benefits [of a later schedule] are that it improves kids’ physical and mental health, including their judgment, which is really important when talking about teenagers,” Sunder said. “Lack of sleep is a big contributor to depression and suicidal thoughts among teens, and we take that very seriously.”

An email sent out to district staff said a survey of DHS students confirmed that 69 percent of students get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night.

“Research has demonstrated that when schools move the start times later, teens do get more sleep; they do not simply stay up late, as often predicted,” the email said.

Sunder and Roberson both believe that the later start time will positively impact student health and wellness.

“I am proud of Davis for being a leader in our region for this issue,” Sunder said. “Many parents are happy that this could be a reality for their kids. It all starts with a good night’s sleep.”

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