Should Jeffco middle and high schools have later start times? That’s the question that the School Start Times Task Force hopes to answer as they explore this complex and multifaceted problem.
The School Start Time Task Force held their first meeting May 21 to make recommendations about changing school start times across the district. Superintendent Jason Glass asked the task force to hold balanced and representative discussions on the topic.
Superintendent stresses importance of community engagement
Glass asked task force members to consider all potential community impacts of altering current school start and end times. Changing school start times might impact local businesses, athletics programs and after-school activities. Different start times would also impact families whose older students care for younger children before or after school, he said.
Glass also asked task force members to engage the community throughout the process.
School Start Times website created to gather community feedback
The task force has actively been working to connect with the Jeffco community. To aid in communication with both stakeholders and task force members, the tri-chairs created a website and a public Facebook group to engage the community in the conversation.
Jeffco Schools also maintains a website to provide full documentation of the task force meeting minutes and presentations by district staff. Community members are encouraged to submit feedback and comments to the task force at any time via an open comments form.
District staff anticipate that the task force will meet three to four times before presenting recommendations. Task force members will determine when and how often subcommittees will meet.
School start times issue introduced in February
Jeffco Schools hosted an initial conversation about later start times for middle and high schools on Feb. 21. More than 100 people gathered at the Education Center to learn about the research, ask questions, and share concerns.
Achievement Director Dan Cohan shared about how later school start times affect student safety and performance. Benefits of a later start time included more sleep and lower rates of teenage car accidents. However, staff also said changing middle and high school start times would impact elementary schools and bus schedules.
Later in the meeting, the district collected feedback from participants. Community members voiced concerns about how early start times for Jeffco middle and high schools may improve student safety and mental health. Other feedback included benefits for physiological development and student achievement.
Other community members asked about how later start times would affect sports and after-school activities. They also mentioned that later start times could be a problem for after-school jobs and childcare arrangements for younger children.
Jeffco Schools staff encouraged everyone who attended the February meeting to apply for a seat on the task force. Fifty Jeffco community members were selected in March and additional applicants are being accepted to the group on an ongoing basis.
The School Start Times Task Force will use a consensus-based process to decide on a set of recommendations. The task force will present those recommendations to Glass and the Jeffco School Board in January 2019. To join the School Start Times Task Force, contact Diana Wilson, Chief Communications Officer, at Diana.Wilson@jeffco.k12.co.us.