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Ready for a New Start School STart Times Are Changing to Better Meet the Needs of our Students

Tonight — October 9 — I am announcing that our school start times will change, beginning in the fall of 2019. This decision comes after nearly two years of staff, student, parent, union leadership and community engagement efforts.

Beginning in 2019-20, our elementary schools will start and finish approximately an hour earlier each day. Our middle and high schools will start and finish approximately an hour later each day.

I want to share with you how we came to make this decision and talk about the why.

Why change?

Ultimately, we are changing school start times because it's the right thing to do for students.

A substantial body of research shows that teenagers would biologically benefit from later start times. Our secondary school students currently begin as early as 7:30 a.m., which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says is too early.

The AAP says shifting back middle and high school schedules is “an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement.”

Solving sleep deprivation with adolescents is not as simple as recommending earlier bedtimes. Our knowledge of teenagers' sleep patterns and circadian rhythms has grown and the evidence suggests many teens struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep at earlier hours.

We believe this change will benefit our students' physical health, emotional well-being and academic successes.

We are not alone in making this move. Many districts around the nation are also pushing back school start times for middle and high school students. Among Oregon's largest districts — Portland, Hillsboro, North Clackamas, Eugene and Medford — all have secondary start times at 8:30 a.m. or later.

In order to facilitate pushing back our secondary start times, we will be starting elementary schools at approximately 8 a.m. We know that this is in line with other local school districts. Elementary schools in Sisters and Crook County school districts both begin around 8 a.m. and our own Three Rivers School has started elementary school at 8:20 a.m. for many years.

School Start Times for 2019-20

  • Elementary school hours from approximately: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Middle and high school hours from approximately: 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; Wednesdays 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The process

We dug deep on this issue, knowing how much it would affect and impact not only our families, but our staff and community partners as well. The two-year decision making process included work by a 20-member School Start Time Advisory Committee of parents, certified and classified staff, business leaders, athletics representatives and more. We also conducted a community forum on start times and a broad based survey. In all, we heard from more than 5,000 voices. Support for changing start times was consistent across all groups — including staff, students, parents and community members.

Closer look at staff input

  • Start Time Committee: Staff members served alongside parents and community members on an advisory committee to evaluate start times.
  • Community Forum: Dozens of staff members participated in the community forum that took place January 2018 and provided feedback that helped shape this decision
  • Survey: We received nearly 700 responses from staff members on our school start times survey. Of those, 56 percent supported changing school start times.

After careful consideration, we concluded that an earlier start time for primary schools and later start times for secondary schools was both feasible and supported by the majority of people who engaged in the process.

While we had consistent support for this change, I recognize that there are many who would like to keep our current school start times. For those of you who served on the committee, participated in the forum, took the community survey or who messaged me about this topic — please know that I read every comment and took all of your feedback to heart when making this decision.

I want to express my gratitude to the hundreds of staff members who provided feedback on potential school schedules. Your input has been important in determining a final schedule plan that both meets our desire to ensure the teaching and learning environments our students and staff deserve and the needs of our families and community.

Next Steps

We are making this announcement now to give our staff, families and the community ample time to plan. Please know we will be working throughout the next months with association leadership and getting feedback from our employees across the district as we work to develop specifics regarding work schedules and other key details. Please look for upcoming opportunities to provide feedback on this process in the months to come.

We are conducting communication outreach to families and community partners. We hope that having the information now will help families and our community plan ahead for next year.

Changing school start times is not a decision we made lightly. Rather, this is a decision based on what we believe would best serve our students today and into the future. When we keep students at the heart of our decisions, we know we are on the right path.

I appreciate the work that all of you do each day to support our schools and students.

Thank you for your partnership today and always,

Shay Mikalson, Superintendent

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