Clear Creek ISD board examines committee work, community input regarding school start times

Clear Creek ISD sign, CCISD stock image (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
Superintendent Greg Smith will bring an official recommendation for school start times before the board for its Nov. 18 meeting. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

Superintendent Greg Smith will bring an official recommendation for school start times before the board for its Nov. 18 meeting. (Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Clear Creek ISD board of trustees next week is expected to make a decision that would potentially adjust school start times, prompting at least two board members to wonder if there has been enough time to examine the issue.

Superintendent Greg Smith will bring an official recommendation for school start times before the board for its Nov. 18 meeting, he said.

The CCISD School Start Time Committee of 30 district parents, teachers and administrators began meeting in late September. Over the month of October, the committee examined alternative school start times after a few parents expressed concerns that high schools starting at 7:10 a.m. is too early.

After several meetings, the committee was unable to reach a consensus on a model of school start times that would most benefit the district. Committee Chair Rene Falls and Steven Ebell, the district deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, presented the committee’s work and votes during a board workshop Nov. 11.

Many district employees and a few parents split votes between models that would keep school start times the same and push back high school start times by 20 minutes. Many parents voted for a third model that would have high schools start at 8:30 a.m., which they said is supported by research.

About a dozen residents, including a couple CCISD students, spoke before the workshop and urged the board to push high school start times back. They said teenagers’ circadian rhythms and production of melatonin, which are natural cycles that aid sleep, begin later than adults, which means it is harder for teenagers to fall asleep early and wake up early.

Board member Arturo Sanchez asked if the committee examined how later school start times would affect school safety. District officials said the committee considered what sleep deprivation does to mental health, particularly how it can increase depression and suicidal tendencies.

Resident David Brady said there is no objective evidence to support the status quo of start times but that there is ample evidence that an 8:30 a.m. start time benefits high school students. He recommended the board direct the district to have an 8:30 a.m. start time for high schools starting in the 2020-21 school year.

Board member Win Weber said there is an assumption that pushing high school start times back means students will get more sleep. Weber asked for concrete evidence for that.

Sanchez said the committee had a lot of information and data to consider and wondered if anyone thought the process of examining it all over a one-month period was too compressed. Board member Jennifer Broddle agreed, saying the district spent more time changing school boundaries, a decision that did not affect as many students as changing school start times would.

“It feels very short to me,” she said of the process.

Ebell said some committee members felt it was an “aggressive” timeline.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.



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