The board approved Superintendent Greg Smith’s recommendation to keep start times as is with a 4-3 vote with Arturo Sanchez, Jennifer Broddle and Scott Bowen voting against. As part of the recommendation, the district will implement programs and initiatives to address some of the issues parents have been reporting as being related to early school start times.
CCISD high schools start at 7:10 a.m. The district in September put together a committee of parents, district employees and doctors to examine the potential of pushing high school start times back after residents began coming before the district with research and evidence that high school students benefit mentally, physically and academically from school start times of 8:30 a.m. or later.
The committee was not able to come to a consensus for recommended school start times the last time members met in late October. Smith recommended Nov. 18 the board vote to keep school start times as they are and make other efforts to address problems, such as conducting an internal review of how homework is being used districtwide, creating a flexible lunch period that includes time to complete homework, increasing opportunities for personalized schedules for students, improving bus transportation and more.
Bowen said he had hoped to see a more ambitious recommendation from the district. Bowen was convinced early on of the research that shows high school students benefit from increased performance and health related to late start times.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “On the benefits side of the equation, the argument is fairly solid.”
Those in the committee opposed to late school start times did not provide any data or evidence showing how students would benefit from keeping start times as they are. The committee did not come up with cost estimates or identify difficulties associated with changing start times, Bowen said.
Broddle also said she was hoping for a more bold and aggressive recommendation.
“... We have a moral obligation to improve our students’ mental health,” she said.
Board member Win Weber acknowledged anxiety is “gnawing away” at teenagers, but she is not sure changing start times would help that concern.
“I am not sure there is one cause of that,” she said.
Board President Laura DuPont said the district has to consider much more than just students’ sleep schedules when deciding start times. The district has to think about bus transportation, extracurricular activities, and practices for athletics and performing arts, she said.
Advocates for later school start times said they were disappointed by the board’s vote but encouraged by the fact that three board members understood the importance of later school start times. They hope the superintendent’s recommendation can lead to positive change, said David Brady and Pat McCraw, both of whom spoke during the meeting in favor of later school start times.
“The conversation doesn’t stop here today,” DuPont said.