PSD Board Votes to Change Start Times

The Board decided to implement Modified Scenario B, created in direct response to feedback from the community. Image courtesy of denveredlocal.com
Poudre School District Logo

Madeline Noblett 

After a year of extensive research and community engagement, Poudre School District’s Board of Education voted 7-0 during Tuesday night’s meeting to change PSD’s school start times, beginning in the 2019-20 school year.

After analyzing District staff’s final report on the school start times exploration, and considering myriad community input and potential implications, the Board decided to implement Modified Scenario B, created in direct response to feedback from the community. A significant motivating factor for the Board came down to making changes to support students’ improved mental health and wellbeing, which are among the Board’s areas of focus and interest.

“This is a proactive step for mental health, and I certainly applaud it in that vein,” said Board Director Rob Petterson, calling the change the “right thing to do” to give students their best opportunities to learn.

Starting next year, high schools will start between 8:55 and 9 a.m.; middle schools will start at 8:05 a.m.; and elementary schools will start between 7:45 a.m. and 8:50 a.m., which represents a significant change for many schools at the elementary level.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, Board Directors spent considerable time debating the decision, weighing factors from the timing of implementation of such a change to nationwide research into the impact of adolescent sleep cycles.

These changes will bring PSD’s bell schedules more closely in line with guidelines from the American Medical Association (AMA), which recommends that teenagers start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Research has shown that teenagers learn better and are safer when they start school later in the day. Along the Front Range in Colorado, Cherry Creek School District, Littleton Public Schools, Brighton’s School District 27J, and Thompson School District have moved start times.

PSD staff members began studying the potential impacts of later school start times at the request of the Board.

District staff will immediately begin crafting an implementation plan that carefully considers the wide-reaching and intricately connected PSD and community impacts of the change. The new start and end times will take effect next school year, and there are from now about eight months preceding that point.

Potential impacts include but aren’t limited to:

• Those related to district and communitywide transportation

• Staffing

• Extracurricular activities, athletics and

• Student/staff after-school jobs

• Childcare

• Facilities use

As part of the implementation plan, PSD staff members will work to finalize specific start times for each school. PSD will communicate those new times, and other details of the plan, as quickly as possible over the next several months leading up to the new school year.

During the past year, PSD administered two surveys that were open to students, parents, PSD staff, and community members. The first survey drew approximately 10,000 responses, and the second about 13,000. It is likely that some people responded to both surveys.

Additionally, PSD gathered feedback through four in-person community engagement sessions hosted this fall, as well as through focus groups with high school students. Numerous people also shared their thoughts directly with PSD staff and Board members throughout the past year, including people who voiced their opinions during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. Public input and survey responses are compiled in a 515-page final report, presented by PSD staff to the Board at its Nov. 13 meeting.

“Although this will be a quick turnaround, I know the PSD staff has been working diligently to consider everything from bus routes to a communications plan,” said Director Kristen Draper who, along with her fellow Directors, voiced their confidence in PSD staff to plan for and implement such a significant change.

As with any topic regarding PSD, members of the community may send an email to all Directors on the Board of Education at boe@psdcshools.org.

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