Q. What time is early dismissal for high school, specifically for October 5th?
Based on the comments received through our FAQ mailbox about the new school hours, there are four main categories of questions:
1. Is this decision just about money?
2. Why are high schools on Tier 3? Shouldn’t younger kids go to school later?
3. How did administration gather input about this decision?
4. How will this affect drop off and pick up times as well as staff reporting times?
Q1. Is this decision just about money?
This decision is about keeping as much money as we can dedicated to student learning and benefiting students in the classroom. Last year we had to absorb an 8.5 million shortfall in funding from the state. We did this without reducing staff, eliminating programs, or services. Next year we will adopt a deficit budget with a shortfall of 2.7million and will use money from fund balance to balance the budget.Transportation represents one of our largest expenses behind payroll. To realize an annual savings of $700,000 any other way would cause us to reduce staff, increase class size, or eliminate programs. We are in a time when school finances are tight and we must make decisions that preserve the things that directly impact students in the classroom.
Q2. Why is high school on Tier 3? Wouldn’t it be better to have high school start early so they could get out earlier?
Teens Have Different Sleep Patterns
One of the key pieces of research that influenced our decision was that of teen sleep patterns. Older children have different sleep patterns than younger children. Teens require at least as much sleep as they did as in pre-teen years - in general, 8.5 to 9.25hours each night. However, as they get older they tend to go to sleep and wake up later than in pre-teen years. Studies show that the typical high school student’s natural time to fall asleep is 11:00 pm or later (Wolfson and Carskadon, 1998). Younger children have more of an "early to bed early to rise" sleep pattern (evidenced by young kids waking up at 6:00 am on Saturdays!).
Research from Children's Hospital Boston neuroscientist Frances Jensen, MD, and neurologist David Urion, MD says that these differences in sleep cycles impact learning. Their research shows that the ideal time for learning starts two hours after a person's "biologically set wake-up time." "This means that the ideal high school would start in late morning and end in late afternoon," says Urion. "Unfortunately, this isn't the norm. Obviously, it would be much better to present new material to people when they could actually learn it, and early morning isn't the best time for teenagers to conjugate Latin verbs."
What about athletic events and other after school activities?
For athletes who may need to leave early to make it to area competitions, we are working with the high school principals to suggest a master schedule that will help to minimize the amount of time a student may miss class due to after school activities. For other activities that now take place after school, it may be possible to hold these meetings,tutorials, practices, etc. before school. For those students who currently practice in the morning, they will not have to arrive as early next year.
What about the high school students who work?
We realize that many high school students have jobs and need to get to work after school. A student who works late can now sleep longer due to the later start time. We also have programs for early release for work.
A three-tier bus system maximizes the availability of each bus. A certain number of busses must be available for field trips, athletic events, etc. throughout the day. Fewer busses are needed for middle school and high school routes, thus freeing up buses for elementary field trips during the day and for athletic events at the end of the day.
Q3.How did the administration gather input about this decision?
In a district as large as ours with 2,300 staff and over 17,000 students and their parents, it is very difficult to receive input from everyone and then make a decision that pleases all. There will be a group that feels as if it was heard, and others who will feel as if their concerns were not heard. The Leadership Team made the decision based on research conducted over several months. We talked with principals and members of the DPAC committee and consulted with many districts around us. We worked with Petermann, our transportation partner, on possible scenarios, routes, tiers and start times. We looked at other possible ways to reduce spending. Once our findings were complete, the Leadership Team determined the tiers and the times for each tier. We made the decision we believe is best for EM-S ISD based upon the needs of the district as a whole.
Q4.How will this affect drop off/pick up times and staff report times?
We are working on these times with our campus leadership now and will communicate them to parents and staff once they have been finalized. While the hours may change slightly, they will follow a similar pattern as the times used this year.