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Group suggests flipping CDA school start times

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | May 12, 2020 1:12 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A panel voted 11-8 to recommend that the Coeur d’Alene School Board change start times for elementary and secondary schools beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

The recommendation from the Coeur d’Alene School District School Start Times Committee would flip start times, allowing high school and middle school students to start later while elementary school students would begin earlier.

Coeur d'Alene School District's director of technology, Seth Deniston, who is the district lead for the committee, said more information and opportunities for public comment are forthcoming.

No decision has yet been made.

"I anticipate the board is going to have a pretty healthy discussion about it over multiple months and board meetings,” Deniston said Monday. "Part of why we’re making the recommendation now for two school years from now is so we can have as much time as possible to talk to the community and discuss impacts. All of that is up to the board’s discretion, of course."

The recommendation to change school start times comes after much research and discussion since the board of trustees-appointed ad hoc advisory committee of 23 parents/community members and 12 school staff members formed last fall.

"The research is pretty clear that this can have some advantages for adolescents, but change of any type is going to be difficult," Deniston said. "For some of the group that voted against the recommendation, I think they were more concerned about the timing and just everything going on with school closures and boundary changes."

Transportation, child care, employment and extracurricular activities are some aspects of society and school life that would be impacted by moving school start times.

Research from the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/school-start-times.pdf shows that delaying high school start times can improve student performance and general well-being. According to this information, benefits to delayed start times in high-schoolers include increases in attendance, grade point averages, assessment scores and student attention along with decreases in disciplinary action, student-involved car crashes and students falling asleep in class.

A survey that went out to the Coeur d'Alene community in February garnered more than 2,700 responses from parents, teachers, school district employees and community members. About 1,000 of those who responded were students.

A high volume of respondents representing elementary and secondary students answered “Yes” when asked “Do you think fatigue affects your student’s mood and behavior?”

Nearly 300 answered the question, "If you currently employ or provide services to students, how would later secondary school start and end time impact your organization?"

Responses varied:

"I would have to change my entire schedule."

"I suspect attitudes would be better."

"Sports practices would be later there for homework would be later for students there for bedtime would be later."

"I think it would adversely affect the entire district. K-5 should not be starting any earlier than they already do."

"Athletes would practice later into the evening, taking away from already precious time to study. I'd also see an increase in numbers of students whose grades and lives are impacted by staying up too late."

"I'm a teacher, so it will help them do better in my class."

The committee will hold a follow-up virtual meeting at 4:30 p.m. May 20 if needed.

The recommendation will be presented at the June 1 school board meeting. More details, opportunities for public comment and potential open houses/workshops will come later.

"The committee recognizes that there’s a lot of work to do on the communication side of things" to help people understand the research and why the district would undertake a change of this magnitude, Deniston said. "Even though change is hard and there would be some impacts to mitigate, the benefit of it can outweigh the impacts for our students."