Given the mounting research and evidence in support of later school start times for adolescents, doing nothing has become increasingly difficult to justify.
STUDENT IMPACT - REGIONAL
1. When would this proposed change take place?
Any possible changes to school start times for Dover Sherborn being recommended by Superintendent Keough would be subject to formal adoption and approval by the three school committees. The Start Time Task Force has recommended, with Dr. Keough’s support, that any change to school start times should not go into effect until the 2020/21 school year. A change such as this would require ample planning time for all members of the community, especially those with childcare concerns.
2. What are the options currently on the table?
As of February 26, 2019 no options for change have been brought forward by the Start Time Task Force. However,the most common start time models utilized by other school communities that are being examined have included what is referred to as a “flip”, wherein middle and high schools essentially swap start times with their elementary counterparts (with slight adjustments made to allow for slightly later elementary starts than existing middle and high school starts), a “shift”, wherein middle and high school start times push somewhere in the range of 20-30 minutes later and elementary schools push in the range of 10-15 minutes later (depending on where adjustments can be made to bus routes in an effort to shorten the time between overall start times for the middle and high school students and the elementary students), and a “single tier” model, wherein either all K-12 students ride together for what would be a considerably longer run or the number of buses are doubled so that secondary school and elementary school start times will not be codependent.
3. Will students really get more sleep? Won’t students just end up going to bed later? Isn’t it really about their electronic media habits?
There is abundant research that shows bedtimes generally stay constant, even sometimes move earlier, when wake times are later. According to research, students do get more sleep, and, equally important, their bedtimes and wake-times throughout the seven day week become more consistent, which adds to the benefit. The American Pediatric Association and over a dozen other medical and public health associations urge that high school start times be no earlier than 8:30.
Although adolescent sleep issues are multi-faceted, one factor is clear and immutable: the circadian rhythms at this age shift, so that adolescents begin to feel sleepy around 11:00. Removing their electronic devices after a predetermined hour may help them fall asleep faster, but not earlier. than their biologically-shifted circadian rhythm will allow.
4. Why do this when our students and schools are already so successful?
Data shows that increased sleep for adolescents reduces anxiety and other emotional and mental health issues (including depression), reduces incidences of dangerous driving, reduces sports injuries, and reduces tardiness and absenteeism. Even the most successful schools share these concerns.
5. How will this impact our athletes?
In addition to the abovementioned reduction in injuries, additional sleep leads to improved performance across the board.
With regard to scheduling, as more and more schools in the area move to a later start times, scheduling issues will resolve themselves further. Some TVL and area schools have already made the change and competing schools have been able to accommodate them. Many other TVL and area schools are presently considering making changes.
6. What about the after-school schedule? Won’t a change like this simply push everything later? How would my student manage multiple extracurriculars with this new schedule?
A change like this may force families to make further decisions about how much is too much, but we consider this to be healthy and appropriate. Balance is important in the lives of young people and changes like these allow us to model that we as a school system will step in if a structure of our own making is potentially hurting our students. Once the district has a plan in place, all stakeholders will work together to create other opportunities for our students to receive extra help. Once/If a model for change is approved, our before and after-school programming schedules will be re-visited to address a variety of interests and needs of our elementary and secondary students.
STUDENT IMPACT - ELEMENTARY
1. How will this affect the elementary students?
We are presently studying how changes to the middle school and high school start times may require corresponding changes to elementary school start times due to busing requirements. However, in general, younger children wake up earlier and are more amenable to an earlier bedtime. Here is a summary of the American Academy of Pediatrics sleep guidelines. We believe, based on what other area school systems have done, that changes can be made that could benefit our younger students as much as our older students, or at the very least, not impact them in a negative way.
2. What is the research on elementary sleep and start times?
There are fewer studies regarding the impact of moving elementary start times earlier, but what has been found generally points to little or no impact. Anecdotally, our elementary teachers and administrators report noticing a decline in elementary student attentiveness and energy levels as our existing school days progress into the afternoon. Starting the school day earlier could result in less afternoon drowsiness at the elementary level.
STUDENT IMPACT -- BOSTON
1. What impact will this have on our Boston Students?
Boston students have always had to travel together on one bus to attend school at Dover Sherborn, which is not ideal. It means that currently our elementary students arrive roughly 45 minutes before their non-Boston peers and wait 45 minutes before the start of school. A flip scenario would mean the opposite, in that the secondary students would now arrive roughly 45 minutes earlier than their non-Boston peers (also not ideal). Under a shift scenario, our Boston students would all be able to sleep later, regardless of grade level as all would be shifted to later start times. Regardless of whether the district moves start times or not, the issue of the one Boston bus run is problematic because some of our students are waiting idly for 45 minutes to start their school day in addition to there being only one K-12 bus run from Boston. It is an issue that we hope to address as part of this process.