Is It Time for a Change? Examining School Start Times

Like many school districts across the country, Bend-La Pine Schools is currently in a process to reexamine what time schools start. Many schools are opting to push back start times for middle and high schools. The thinking is that this move would ultimately allow teenagers to get more sleep.

Researchers say having later start times at the secondary level could better align with teenagers' natural circadian rhythms and some research suggests that later start times may help teenagers with a host of issues, from mental health to test scores and automotive safety. Here's a link to one of the studies we reviewed while examining this issue.

The district formed a committee of staff and community members to dive deep into this issue during the 2016-17 school year. We then hosted a large public forum about the topic in January 2018. Based on feedback from the committee and the community, we have narrowed the school start times options to two potential choices.

The two options are listed below:

Current Start Times

  • Elementary School — 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Middle School — 7:45 a.m. to 2:40 p.m
  • High School — 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Alternate Schedule

  • Elementary School — 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Middle School — 8:45 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
  • High School — 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Our goal now is to get feedback on these two schedules above, and I want to hear from you. Please take a moment to fill out our survey and share your thoughts with us. This input will be one of the factors we use in making this decision. The survey will be open until May 31.

Complex Issue

We are putting a great deal of thought into this decision because we know any change affects not just students, but staff members, parents, community partners, local businesses and more. One important thing to note: We would not consider implementing any change until the 2019-20 school year. From day care providers to traffic patterns, any change to school schedules could have ripple effects throughout our community.

The issue is complex for students, too. We recently asked the Superintendent's Student Advisory Team to weigh in on these two choices. The group had a great discussion, weighing the pros and cons of each option. Would they use the time to sleep? Would it affect their after-school jobs or activities? Would it help make the winter roads safer? Ultimately the group split, with half wanting to keep the current schedule and the other half happy to push start times back.

Next Steps

We intend to make this decision with great care, ensuring that we keep the best interests of our students at the forefront. If we decide on an alternate schedule, we will begin work with community partners and others in the fall of 2018 to plan for the change. If there is no change to the current schedule, we will make that announcement in the fall.

Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts with us. And thank you for your continued partnership to make Bend-La Pine Schools the exceptional place it is.


Shay Mikalson, Superintendent

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