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 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:
- February 7, 2019 Study Session
- February 5, 2020 Study Session
- April 14, 2021 Study Session
- January 12, 2022 Study Session
At the Feb 5, 2020 study session, Jeffco School Board members said more information about potential costs — especially concerning school bus routes — was needed.
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:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Medical Association
- Society of Pediatric Nurses
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
- National Sleep Foundation
- American Psychological Association
- American Thoracic Society
What are other districts doing?
Several Denver metro area school districts have already moved to later start times in recent years. For example:
- Cherry Creek School District – Fall 2017
- Greely-Evans School District – Fall 2017
- Brighton 27J – Fall 2018
- Thompson School District – Fall 2018
- Littleton School District – Fall 2018
- Boulder Valley – Fall 2019
- Adams 12 School District – Fall 2020
In addition, Denver Public Schools recently approved later middle and high school start times for Fall 2022.