Breaking News

Jeffco school start times changes take another step forward

Five years ago, a group of Jeffco parents approached the district about changing start times to create a more equitable school day for all students. This week, Jeffco Schools took another step toward changing start times by gathering feedback on the proposed time changes with a community survey

The results will be used to help the district and school leaders identify and address challenges for families with the proposed changes to school start times.

Why change start times?

The 50-member School Start Times Task Force, established by former Superintendent Jason Glass, started working in Spring 2018 to change middle and high school start times for all Jeffco schools. 

school start times

The task force members found that changing start times would:

  • Improve mental and physical health for middle and high school students
  • Improve student attendance, increase the number of students who arrive at school on time, and improve graduation rates
  • Establish an equitable school day for all schools across the district, as opposed to the current situation with approximately 100 different school start and end times in Jeffco that have created different day lengths, unequal amounts of classroom instruction, and unequal amounts of planning and professional learning time for educators across Jeffco.
  • Provide a 30-minute lunch break at all schools.
  • Save nearly $1 million per year in bus route efficiencies (estimated $975,000 in savings).
  • Establish a set number of instructional hours per school level, with 6.5 in elementary 7, in middle school, and 7.15 in high school.

Proposed start times are grouped by bus routes, with schools in Jeffco’s west area (specifically, schools in the Conifer and Evergreen articulation areas) on a slightly different schedule due to the transportation needs of these mountain communities. 

Proposed changes for Jeffco neighborhood schools (except Conifer or Evergreen)

Proposed changes for Conifer and Evergreen articulation area schools

 

Proposed changes for Jeffco Option Schools

Why now? Why Jeffco?

Since the task force began its work in 2018, members have gathered and presented data from Jeffco community surveys and research on later start times to the school board four times:

At the Feb 5, 2020 study session, Jeffco School Board members said more information about potential costs — especially concerning school bus routes — was needed. 

Jeffco School Board members approved hiring a consultant, who completed a report in August 2020. According to the report, the district can save nearly $1 million per year by changing start times.

In January 2022, the Jeffco Board of Education instructed the superintendent to explore what it would take to launch healthy and equitable start and end times for the upcoming 2022-23 school year.

At the Jan. 12 board study session, Superintendent Tracy Dorland noted the connections to the work to her areas of focus and strategic planning for the district and how unequal instruction times were for students school by school. 

“As I listened to the project, the proposed solutions, and the issues that this project was trying to address for our district, I was struck by how connected it really was to some of the areas of focus I had identified for our district in terms of the work this year and my areas of exploration as a new superintendent,” Dorland said. “I think this definitely is an area where we do not have a just right balance of coherence and autonomy.” 

”It also highlighted for me efficiency of our resources in regard to our operations,” Dorland said. “With the disparate number of start times that we have, I believe we have a huge lack of efficiency in the operations of our transportation fleet.”  

In addition, Jeffco surveyed school principals in January and an overwhelming number of principals were open to changing school start times.

What does the research say?

A recent study of later start times in Cherry Creek found that academic engagement improved after start times were changed. Specifically, the study found that students:

  • Got more sleep
  • Reported less sleepiness while doing homework
  • Minimal impacts to extracurricular participation

A four-year study of later start times found that when the high school day started at or after 8:30, high schoolers reported less depressive feelings than high schoolers who started earlier than 8:30.

Fewer motor vehicle crashes

Later school start times are also associated with fewer teen motor vehicle crashes. A 2008 study found a drop of 16.5 percent in crash rates in the first two years after high school start times were moved later. In contrast, teen motor vehicle crashes in the same region where school start times didn’t change increased by 7.8 percent during that time.

Later school start times recommended by multiple organizations

Multiple national medical organizations support later start times for middle and high school students. They include:

What are other districts doing?

Several Denver metro area school districts have already moved to later start times in recent years. For example:

In addition, Denver Public Schools recently approved later middle and high school start times for Fall 2022.

Feedback on the proposed Jeffco start times is due by Friday, Feb. 25 at jeffcopublicschools.org/start_times.

Lisa Cook

Lisa Cook, Ph.D., is a writer, editor, musicologist and Jeffco resident since 1999 with two children attending Jeffco Schools. Lisa earned a BA from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Music from Colorado State University, and her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. When not working, she can be found running (ideally on mountain trails) with Midnight, her miniature poodle. Please visit our "About Us" page to learn more about Lisa and our other writers.

Click here to opt-out of Google Analytics. Click here to opt-out.