Cherry Creek schools getting some parent pushback to proposed later start times for middle and high schools

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AURORA | Academic performance, sleep and the overall well-being of students are some of the reasons Cherry Creek School District is considering later start times for high school and middle school students next school year.

These are the same reasons some parents say they are opposing the change, which received about two-thirds general support from respondents to a survey sent out last year.

According to a petition started by CCSD parents, while the later start times for the 2017-18 school year might help high school and middle school students, the reshuffle could have a negative impact on elementary school students. As of Monday, 342 parents have signed the petition urging the school district to not change start and end times.

“I think they should leave things the way they are because if it does change then a lot of people will be negatively affected by it,” said Jennifer Candina, who has a child that attends Polton Community Elementary School. “Why try and fix something that isn’t broken?”

As is, elementary students start school at 9 a.m. and finish at 3:30 p.m., but under the proposed changes they would start at 8 a.m. and finish at 2:45 p.m. Start times for middle schools currently range from 7:50 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. and would be moved to 8:50 a.m. across the board. High school students in CCSD would see the biggest time change, going from a 7:10 a.m. start time to 8:20 a.m.

One concern highlighted in the petition is transportation safety. For elementary school students who take the bus to school, they may be waiting in the dark during certain times of the year. Another concern for parents is how this time change will affect academic performance.

According to research from the National Sleep Foundation, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, students’ sleep patterns change as they enter puberty. This change makes them less likely to get the amount of sleep they need, which can result in poor academic performance.

However, restructuring school start times “may simply be shifting the problem from adolescents to younger children, instead of eliminating it altogether,” according to a 2014 study from the University of Kentucky that examined how starting school earlier for elementary school students affected their academic performance.

But Candina’s major concern is a simple one: how much sleep her second grader will get.

“One of the negative effects is for the parents that don’t get off work until late at night, such as myself. I don’t get home until 9:30 p.m. and my son waits for me to get home before he goes to sleep,” she said. “It will be more stressful for the kid and the parent due to lack of sleep hours.”

More than 25,000 students, staff members and parents responded to a survey about the time changes sent out last year. About 73 percent said the issue was “very important” or “relatively important” to them and about 13,200 of those who responded favored a later high school start time. Nearly 18,000 said they were OK with changing the current order of school start times.

The final proposed changes to school start times was made at CCSD board meeting earlier this month and will be rejected or adopted in March.