Anchorage School Board pushes back decision on school start times to August

The Anchorage School Board has pushed back a decision on changing school start times to August so its two new board members, elected in April, can have more time with the issue, the board president said.

If the board decides to switch up school schedules, the change would start in the 2019-20 school year.

The Anchorage School District hired a consultant last year to study the start time issue. Research says older students would benefit from starting school later. But to move the time school starts for one group, the district would have to shift school schedules for all students, unless it wants to spend millions of dollars more on busing.

The district's consultant has proposed two possible scheduling changes: Either move all school start and end times back by 30 minutes or move schedules back and swap the start-time order. The second option would have elementary school students starting classes first at 8 a.m., high school students starting second at 8:45 a.m. and then middle school students starting at 9:30 a.m.

School Board President Starr Marsett brought up a third possibility at the board's work session Monday. What if the district had high school starting at 8 a.m., elementary school starting at 8:45 a.m. and middle school starting at 9:30 a.m.?

That way, she said, elementary students wouldn't start and end school so early.

"I'm really trying to weigh-in how it affects our elementary school students and their families," she said.


[Anchorage parents are split over possible changes to school start times, survey shows]

The district administration is expected to tell the board what school schedule it recommends on Aug. 6, with the board making a final decision at its meeting two weeks later.

Marsett said Thursday that she remained undecided about the start time issue.

"I'm on the fence," she said. "I think a lot of board members are on the fence because we know whatever decision we make, it's not going to be popular with everyone."

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.