Superintendent Michael Beresford explains proposed changes to daily schedule

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Kassandra Darnell

Why the consideration to implement later start times now?

It’s a big swing. The reason for the secondary, 6-12, study that we’re doing is that there’s a ton of research that says that adolescents benefit greatly from a later start time in school. And they kind of set that at around 8:30 a.m. or later. A lot of that has to do with the circadian rhythm, the sleep patterns that you go through and that when are in that time of like of adolescence, that time pattern shifts. And they’ve cited that kids perform better, are less stressed, it’s better on their mental health and it’s just more in line with where you are developmentally. In education, we’re always interested in what’s the most developmentally appropriate. And you probably notice that a lot of districts around us and around the city are all starting later and it’s based on that research. It’s been recommended by the American Pediatrics Society and the CDC. There’s a lot of professional organizations that recommend that. Of course, there’s also a K-5 program and those two have to mesh when it comes to transportation, so we’re also looking at seeing what it would be like if we added some time to the elementary school day. The purpose of that would be to, right now we have a very short elementary day, one of the shortest around, and all of the things we need to accomplish in a day are very packed. It offers less stress and opportunities for different types of things, like more recess and more time for innovation or more time for social and emotional learning. It’s kind of one big package we’re looking at.

Would the elementary have a later end time or an earlier start time?

The way the time works out, elementary would probably have a little later ending time. Right now, the elementary is nestled between the start and the finish of the secondary day. In this model, the elementary kids would get picked up first, then the middle and high school kids. Then later, the elementary kids would get picked up first again and then we’d go back for the middle and high school kids. It’s a little different transportation structure than we’re used to, but the advantage of it is that we’re not moving the elementary start time very much, if we do at all.

With the later start time for 6-12, about what time would they get out of school?

Those are to be determined, but if you figure a seven hour day, if they started at around 8:45 a.m., it’d be 3:45 p.m. If it’s an 8:30 a.m., it’d be a 4:30 p.m. But it’d probably be somewhere within that zone between 4:35 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

When would those start times be implemented?

We don’t have enough time to have it ready for next school year. We’ve been looking at it all year long. We’ve been working with administrators and we’re just getting to a point where we’re getting ready to videotape an elementary presentation and a secondary presentation on the longer school day for the elementary and starting the day later for the secondary. Our goal is to put that out to parents and staff and administration this month, and once they watch that presentation, they’ll have the opportunity to give feedback and they’ll also be some frequently asked questions on that presentation. I’ve found that the way to get good feedback is to make sure the people that give feedback are educated with what exactly we’re planning on doing. So implementation would be 2021.

Have there been any objections?

Yeah. I think there’s objections to just about everything. A lot of the objections, I would call them concerns because we really haven’t presented anything that would be hard enough to object to yet. There’s concerns about starting activities later. There’s concerns about childcare for teachers and parents. Whenever you change people’s routines, it’s going to be some concerns. One advantage of doing a presentation and getting feedback is hopefully we’ll be able to find all those little details because the worst thing is to implement fast and then miss a small but important detail or something you didn’t think of and then put people in a real bad spot. There’s just a lot of pieces to it. It’s a big district; 15 schools. It’s complicated. If the decision is made to move forward with it, that’ll give us all next year to do some very detailed planning so that we don’t have any unintended complications for the following year.

Have you guys looked into how exactly it will after sporting schedules and after school activity schedules?

That’ll be some of the details we work out. But a lot of the schools around are already on the delayed start, so I don’t think it should affect it too much. And I don’t see it’ll be too long a time until others change too. It’s hard to ignore research. I think it’ll all be working that way. I was just noticing this spring that a lot of the contests don’t start until 5:30 or 6 p.m. or sometimes 7 or 7:30 p.m. even now, so that won’t be an issue at all. And I wonder if that’s because the opponents are delayed. Hopefully we’ll be able to work that out.

Is it just research that’s influenced this decision and the fact that nearby schools have done this already?

It’s really the research piece of it. Mental health has been a growing concern in our society in general, but particularly with our school age kids. I think that this would be a good step forward and maybe help destress, at least in the mornings. If you’re staying outside of you wheelhouse with your sleep schedule, I wonder if we’ve got more sleep deprivation going on than we even know about. That extra hour of sleep might really make a big difference in some kids lives. We don’t want you just to survive, we want you to thrive.

With the later start times, would the high school get rid of late start?

No. We’re actually thinking, right now just the high school does that, and we’re wondering what it would be like if the whole district did that. So we’d have late start twice a month with the whole district instead of just the high school. The transportation schedule would be the same for the whole district on those delayed start days. And the buses would run at a later time if we do late start for the whole district. We’d just do the delay district wide and the buses would run 40 minutes later. Same drop off times, the pick up times would just be different. The advantage of the late start is that it gives teachers built in time to collaborate and look at student data in order to inform their instruction, which is a good practice. It’s really hard to do that during the school day when you have students and everybody’s got a different schedule. This would just be dedicated time to work on those professional learning communities so they can collaborate. It’s pretty well founded that collaborative environments achieve higher and people find their job more fulfilling when they collaborate with others to achieve.

Have you guys considered how that would affect AP testing? Because some of the AP tests start pretty early.

I don’t think it would affect it too much. We’re pretty used to doing special schedules. Right now they don’t fit into a neat little box, so we’ll make it fit. I’m not too worried that testing schedules. We’re used to working with that.

I know there’s a concern that students feel they would have less time to do homework with the school day pushed back. Have you considered that or how do you think that should be interpreted?

I’ve not heard that, but whenever you do a shift, it’s a shift. The idea of it is that you guys typically aren’t ready to sleep until 10 or 11 p.m. Because you’re getting up at 7 a.m., you want to get your homework done be 6 p.m., you’d be more rested. It’s a cycle, so if you add time here, you’ll add some somewhere else. It’s a shift so you’d stay up a little later, but it should balance out your sleep. A lot of the research was about that the adolescent is not to go to sleep until 10 or 11 p.m. So if you start your morning at 6 a.m. and school starts around 7:30 a.m., you’re already going to go into sleep deficit because your body won’t want to sleep earlier. We want you to get your sleep on the front end, which is where you naturally would want to get that deep sleep and you’ll actually get the benefit of that. You’ll be adjusting to a new cycle and maybe a better cycle for people your age.

Anything else readers should know about?

There’s a pretty good list of different research bodies out there that really say that this is a no-brainer and we don’t want to be the profession that reads research and sees things that are pretty substantiated and decide we don’t want to do that. We want to do what’s best for you guys. That’s our goal: to find the most optimal setting that you can learn and achieve in and be healthy and balanced. Carmel Clay Schools has always been a proponent of the whole child. We’re not just about academics. We’re about academics. We’re about social and emotional health. We’re about physical health and wellness. We want you to come out with a great education and a well-balanced life. That’s the goal and we’re always going to try and reach it.

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