Board Examines Results of School Start Time Survey – February 2017 Update
On January 4, 2017, the Board of Education was presented with the results of a survey conducted by K12 Insight, a community engagement firm contracted by the District to gather community input on the possible challenges and benefits of a later secondary school start time. On January 5, K12 Insight facilitated a community forum to further discuss the findings.
According to Board of Education president Aimee Hemminger, the survey and outreach was conducted to allow the stakeholders (parents, students, staff) to weigh in on this important discussion. “Gathering input was an important step and a way for us to identify concerns and unintended consequences of any changes. Now, we need to digest the study and look at what is feasible,” Hemminger says.
The conversation about later start times is rooted in an extensive body of research that shows that significant health (both physical and mental) and academic benefits exist for students who are able to get more sleep.
“But perhaps most impactful to the Board is the research that shows when teens do not get adequate sleep they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors (such as substance abuse) and are more likely to suffer from depression and experience anxiety,” explains Hemminger. “This is a great concern for the Board.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. In most cases, this will mean a school start time of 8:30. The Board is seeking an answer to the question of whether a change in start and end times is a possibility in New Paltz.
“We are not there yet,” says Hemminger. “We will be looking carefully at the responses to determine if there is a way to work the science into the reality that was expressed in the survey responses. Before we can do that, we need to look at some actual possibilities for changes and discuss them with the principals, transportation, and other district staff. This will help us determine specific impacts so they can be measured against the concerns expressed in the survey results.”
The Board will start this discussion at its meeting on February 1. “Any potential changes that may be discussed are just exploratory,” Hemminger emphasizes. “It is very important for stakeholders to understand that this is a discussion and not a decision.”
Hemminger encourages the community to review the survey results and view the community forum video. Feedback on both benefits and negative consequences of a start time change with regard to health, family time, afterschool activities, academics, and more is provided.
There were mixed opinions among parents and staff members about whether or not the school times should change.
- The survey participation rate among parents was 37 percent and staff was 38 percent. The student participation rate was 66 percent.
- 71 percent of student respondents said a later school start time would have a positive impact on their sleep; however 61 percent were concerned a later start time would negatively impact their ability to participate in afterschool activities. 72 percent of student respondents said that a change would negatively impact interscholastic sports.
- 38 percent of parents and 77 percent of staff members who responded said that changing the school start and end times would negatively impact students’ ability to participate in afterschool activities. The activity that parent respondents said would be most negatively affected is Ulster BOCES New Visions program (69 percent).
- 49 percent of parent respondents said changing school times would have a positive impact on their general health and well-being (17 percent negative, 34 percent no impact). 22 percent said a change would have a positive impact on their ability to spend time with family (29 percent negative, 49 percent no impact).
- 58 percent of parents supported a later start time, 33 percent opposed it, and 8 percent had no opinion. 54 percent of parents supported a later end time, 33 percent opposed it, and 13 percent had no opinion.
- 52 percent of students supported a later start time, 39 percent opposed it, and 9 percent had no opinion. However, 11 percent of students supported a later end time, 73% opposed it, and 12 percent had no opinion.
- 29 percent of staff supported a later start time, 58 percent opposed it, and 14 percent had no opinion. 23 percent of staff supported a later end time, 59 percent opposed it, and 14 percent had no opinion.
“All of the data will be carefully considered,” says Hemminger. “Our goal is not to cause harm, but to make things better for the most people. We will be looking for solutions that balance the needs of the ‘whole child’. This means the Board will consider how any change may affect academics, including access to programs like BOCES, sports, clubs, and family time, as well as sleep. We will also explore options for how transportation changes may be able to help.”