Anchorage, Alaska debates later start times for local schools

The idea of later start times for Anchorage School District schools has resurfaced among school officials. A proposal could be put in place in the fall of 2018.

Wendler Middle School, Anchorage Alaska.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, August 11, 2017 – As the Autumn 2017 school term fast approaches, the burning question – whether the Anchorage School District should change its school start times – still confronts the school district. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has recommended that middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. each morning.

The AASM further advises that students aged 13 to 18 should receive eight to 10 hours of sleep each night to promote good health.

The Anchorage School District will look into implementing a later-starting school day for older students this fall and will conduct a community survey on the issue. But a decision on a later start time could come at a cost.

Right now the Anchorage School District’s high schools begin each school day at 7:30 a.m. Middle school students begin classes at 8:15 a.m., and most elementary school students start the day at 9 a.m.

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A later start time could lead to a lower number of tardy students, increase attendance and help ensure that students who drive themselves to school each morning are driving more safely. A later start time could also help students to be more alert and more engaged in their education and studies throughout the day.

Schools across the Lower 48 states tend to start elementary, middle and high school classes earlier in the day, so they can get back home in time to take care of younger siblings before their parents get home from work. But an earlier start-time keeps students from walking to school or bus stops during high traffic hours.

However, a later start-time would cause a backlog for school buses. To get around this issue, start times would need to be staggered depending on school level.

Some school officials have come up with the idea of holding clases between 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which would give students the opportunity to fit classes around their work schedules or family needs.

At least one student wants to see the high school start times turned back to 8:30 a.m. Matthew Park filed an online petition and has received more than 4,700 signatures in favor of his proposal as of last Wednesday.

“If the school day were to begin later,” Park said, “sports practices and games might be pushed later. Is that good for our kids?”

Additional questions?

“How would a later school day affect opportunities for kids to hold part-time jobs in the evenings, some of whom do so to help support their families? What about before-and-after day care issues for elementary students and the impacts on families whose parents may or may not be able to change their work schedule to match the new school times?”

While the debate continues over later start times, teachers and students remain at odds over the issue.

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