BETTER LATE: Aurora district toying with later start times for schools

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AURORA | Some Aurora students may soon be rising and shining a little later.

Cherry Creek School District is looking to reshuffle start and end times for students in 2017-18 after getting positive feedback from surveys sent out in November to the district community.

“The last two years … we heard from a lot of our parents that high school starts too early and we made a commitment to look at all of our structures in the district to make sure that everything we’re doing really does support students and student learning,” said Scott Siegfried, CCSD’s assistant superintendent.

The proposed time changes would push back start times for middle and high school students, while elementary students would start earlier.

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 7:55 a.m. and finish at 2:40 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 8:15 a.m.

The proposed changes align with a bevy of research from the National Sleep Foundation, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which shows students’ sleep patterns change as they enter puberty.

“There’s not a decision that (teenagers) make to try to go to bed or try not to go to bed, they just go to sleep later and then sleep in later,” Siegfried said. “As they move from puberty into adulthood, they grow out of that. A lot of people just say ‘toughen up, they’ll get over it’ … it’s not that simple. It’s truly their biology that is different. They can’t decide to not be teenagers.”

More than 25,000 students, staff members and parents responded to the survey sent out last  year with about 73 percent saying the issue was “very important” or “relatively important.” About 13,200 of those who responded favored a later high school start time ranging from 7:45 to 8 a.m.

If the proposed changes take effect, high school students would get roughly an hour more sleep in the morning and would have a shorter school day, but still surpass the state minimum instructional time. And there would be no change to athletics.

Middle school students would see a greater change in their day-to-day routines, with some eating lunch shortly after getting to school — those schools would add an afternoon snack time later in the day. Middle school athletics programs would start earlier and there would also be more buses available to transport students. In addition, parents could drop kids off for supervised breakfast and study hall in the cafeteria as early as 8 a.m., Siegfried said.

Elementary student programming would be moved from before school to after school, and the additional 15 minutes could potentially be added to lunch and recess. Staff meetings would be moved to the afternoon in this model.

A presentation will be made to the CCSD Board of Education next month and a vote will take place in March. Siegfried said he feels positive about the proposal.

“We wouldn’t put this out publicly if there wasn’t interest in making sure our system was in the right place for kids,” he said.