At its regularly scheduled December 14, 2017 meeting, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education continued its deliberations for about 2 and a half hours before approving new school start times districtwide. The Board approved the Long Range Planning Committee’s recommendation to adopt Option1 changes to school start times, beginning in the fall of 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year with a 5-0 vote.
Beginning in August, 2018:
Most elementary schools will start school at 8 a.m. and end at 2:43 p.m.
Centennial and Field will start school at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:58 p.m. and 3:03 p.m., respectively
High schools will start school at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:31 p.m.
Middle schools will start school at 8:54 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m.
The decision to change school start times followed months of research analysis, parent presentations and extensive opportunities for parent, student and staff input through public forums, open houses and surveys.
Board members noted that over the past several years, LPS has made a commitment to address the mental health and wellness* of our students and staff. They agreed that changing school start times to better align with what doctors tell us about adolescent sleep patterns cannot be done in isolation; it is just the first of several issues that need to be studied.
“This was not an easy decision for me. But, I believe in the research. I believe that the challenges related to Option 1 are solvable. I trust our superintendent, his team, our principals and teachers to make it work,” said Board of Education President Jack Reutzel. “We all are guided by the same North Star, which is to do the best thing for our students.”
Board members discussed the challenges associated with a start time change. High school and middle school activities and athletics will take place later in the afternoon, and all LPS families will be impacted by the change in family routines. They also noted that these are problems that adults can solve. “We are committed to making it work. School leaders and teachers solve problems every day. It’s what we do. This change is the right thing to do for our teenagers,” said LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert. “It absolutely will make a difference. I’m confident we can make it work.”
Research tells us that a later school start time positively impacts alertness, mental health, wellness and behavior in high school and middle school students, which means students are better prepared to learn. The new school start times better align with the latest research that shows teens’ sleep patterns are different than those of younger children and adults.
According to National Jewish Health Adolescent Sleep Expert Dr. Lisa Meltzer, melatonin is a hormone released by the brain that controls the internal clock and prepares the body for sleeping. But during puberty, the timing of the melatonin release is delayed by up to 2 hours. This makes it nearly impossible for teens to fall asleep early. This shift is also seen in the morning hours, such that when we ask a teen to wake at 6:00 a.m. that is equivalent to asking an adult to wake at 4:00 a.m. An adolescent’s brain is biologically asleep at the time we ask them to wake up, often get behind the wheel of a car, and go to school and learn.
Board members discussed how a change in school start times directly correlates to the Board’s commitment to the academic and social/emotional well being of all students. In addition, over the past several years, LPS has made a commitment to address the mental health of our students and staff. They agreed that changing school start times to better align with what sleep experts tell us about adolescent sleep patterns cannot be done in isolation; it is just the first of several issues that need to be studied. “Changing to later middle and high school start times isn’t THE answer, but it’s AN answer and part of a larger solution. We as a Board are committed to looking at the other factors that contribute to the mental health of our teens - things we can influence such as homework, screen time, social media and the tendency to overschedule our kids,” said Reutzel. “We will need parents to partner with us and help us in these efforts.”
Board members asked administration to look into issues such as high school and middle school activities and athletics, tuition assistance for School Age Child Care for qualifying families and additional lighting for outdoor practice fields. Administration will also be studying ways to compress bus routes in an effort to move the middle school start time closer to 8:45 a.m.
School and district administration spent nine months gathering information, anticipating possible challenges, and finding answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. How would a change to school start times impact School Age Child Care? Middle and High School athletics and activities? Transportation? “It was important that we do our due diligence to have answers to as many of the logistics questions as possible,” said LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert. “These were critical questions to address because any kind of change we make to school schedules impacts families.”
Board members thanked the members of the Long Range Planning Committee, principals, teachers, district administrators, parents and students who studied this issue, attended meetings and open houses, provided input and feedback, and brought solutions forward.
*Physical health and safety, Increased obesity risk, Metabolic dysfunction (hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus), Increased cardiovascular morbidity, (hypertension, increased risk of stroke) Increased rates of motor vehicle crashes (“drowsy driving”) Higher rates of caffeine consumption; increased risk of toxicity/overdose Nonmedical use of stimulant medications; diversion Lower levels of physical activity Mental health and behavior Increased risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation Poor impulse control and self-regulation; increased risk-taking behaviors Emotional dysregulation; decreased positive affect Impaired interpretation of social/emotional cues in self and others Decreased motivation Increased vulnerability to stress Academics and school performance Cognitive deficits, especially with more complex tasks Impairments in executive function (working memory, organization, time management, sustained effort) Impairments in attention and memory Deficits in abstract thinking, verbal creativity Decreased performance efficiency and output Lower academic achievement Poor school attendance Increased dropout rates.
In the spring of 2017, LPS began to explore how to streamline school start and end times to better meet the needs of teenagers and to pave the way for improved and more efficient transportation services in the future. Community conversations about the possibility of changing school start times began through 22 staff and 30 parent/community meetings throughout the school district.
In February 2017, nearly 6,000 parents, staff members and middle/high school students participated in a survey about potential changes to school start times. Respondents indicated a desire to change school start times.
The LPS Board of Education asked the Long-Range Planning Committee to further study the issue and provide the Board with recommendations in November 2017. From April 2017 through November 2017, The Long-Range Planning Committee met 10 times. Committee members:
Based on the research, feedback from the informational open houses, both surveys and the information gleaned from other districts, the Long Range Planning Committee recommended to the Board of Education in November 2017 that, “Littleton Public Schools adopt Option 1 start times for the 2018-2019 school year, with Option 2 as a secondary option for the Board to consider.”
In February 2017, nearly 6,000 parents, staff members and middle/high school students participated in a survey about potential changes to school start times. Parents and staff members who participated in the survey indicated:
In October 2017, LPS employees and parents were invited to participate in a survey regarding possible changes to school start times. 6,305 parents and employees responded. It was a self-selected survey with a response rate of 36%. Participants were asked to indicate preferences of a possible change to school start times among three choices: Option 1, Option 2 and No Change. Participants were asked their first choice and their second choice.
Survey results indicate:
School Start Times for Adolescents
American Academy of Pediatrics
The Effect of School Start Time on Academic Achievement
School Start Times - Review of Recent Literature
Impact of School Start Times on Student Learning
School Start Time Changes and Sleep in Elementary School Students
Sleep Health - Appleman, Gilbert and Au
Synchronizing Education to Adolescent Biology - Let Teens Sleep, Start School Later
Learning, Media & Technology - P. Kelley, Lockley, Foster and J. Kelley
Elementary Feedback on Changed Start Times
Excerpt from 1998 Report Prepared for Minneapolis Public Schools - Wahlstrom
AMA Supports Delayed School Start Times to Improve Adolescent Wellness
American Medical Association
Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation
American Academy of Pediatrics
Sleep: An Underrated Player in Athletic Performance
National Federation of State High School Associations
Danner, Fred and Phillips, B (2008) Adolescent Sleep, School Start Times, and Teen Motor Vehicle Crashes, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 6.
Drake, Christopher, Nickel, C., Burduvali, E., Roth, T., Jefferson, C., Badia, P. (2003) The Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale (PDSS): Sleep Habits and School Outcomes in Middle-school Children, SLEEP, Vol. 26, No. 4.
Fairfax County School Board. (July 14, 2014). Blueprint for Change: Status Update. Fairfax County, VA.
Meltzer, L., Shaheed, K. & Ambler, D. (2016) Start Later, Sleep Later: School Start Times and Adolescent Sleep in Homeschool Versus Public/Private School Students, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 14:2, 140-154, DOI: 10.1080/15402002.2014.963584
Pediatrics. (August 25, 2014). School Start Times for Adolescents. Elk Grove Village, IL.
The Children's National Medical Center's Blueprint for Change. (April 15, 2014). School Start Time Change: An In-Depth Examination of School Districts in the United States. George Washington University.
Wahlstrom, K., Dretzke, B., Gordon, M., Peterson, K., Edwards, K., & Gdula, J. (2014). Examining the Impact of Later School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota.
June 6, 2017 - Presentation Featured: "Teens and Sleep"
Dr. Wahlstrom, University of Minnesota
June 6, 2017 - Presentation Featured: "Sleep and Start Times"
Dr. Meltzer, National Jewish Health
Interview on Start Time Changes: Dr. Scott Siegfried
Deputy Superintendent, Cherry Creek School District
Interview on Start Time Changes: Pegi McEvoy
Assistant Superintendent for Operations, Seattle Public Schools
Interview on Start Time Changes: Tonya Rowe
Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations, Bellingham Public Schools
Interview on Start Time Changes: Sandy Evans
Board of Education, Fairfax County Public Schools
Why School Should Start Later in the Day
Los Angeles Times
Why Are Parents Afraid of Later School Start Times?
Later School Start Times Catch on Nationwide
District Administration Magazine
Warning Sounded on Tech Disrupting Student Sleep
Study Links Early School Start Time to Depression in Teens
3 Americans Win Nobel Medicine Prize for Body Rhythm Work
The Denver Post
TED Talk: Why School Should Start Later for Teens