The Anchorage School District is recommending a change to school start times and end times that would shift all grade levels by at least an hour.
Under the changes proposed by district officials, which would take effect in the 2023-24 school year, elementary schools would start earlier and middle and high schools would start later. The school board is expected to discuss the start times at a meeting Tuesday but is not expected to vote on the proposed changes until next month.
The recommended plans call for elementary school students to start at 8 a.m. and finish their days at 2:30 p.m. Middle school students would start at 9:30 a.m. and let out at 4:00 p.m., while high school would start at 8:45 a.m. and finish at 3:15 p.m.
Right now, elementary schools primarily begin at 9 a.m. and release at 3:30 p.m., while middle school starts at 8:15 a.m. and let out at 2:45 p.m., and high schools start at 7:30 a.m. and finish at 2 p.m.
The start time proposal is on the agenda as a non-action item at the school board’s meeting Tuesday, and the board won’t likely vote on the measure until its meeting on May 9.
National research indicates middle and high school students should not start school until 8:30 a.m. at the earliest, according to a memo in this week’s school board packet from district Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt.
“Middle and high school students who get eight hours or more of sleep experience less depression, have more energy, are less likely to use tobacco and consume junk food, and make better decisions,” the memo states.
School districts that have already made changes to their start and end times have shown better grades, higher test scores, improved attendance, and graduation rates, officials wrote.
During the 2017-2018 school year the Anchorage School District looked at the possibility of changing school start and end times, but the school board at the time voted against making any of those changes.
More recently, the current board in January asked the school district to again make a recommendation around school start and end times. The district hired consultant Shannon Bingham, of Western Demographics, who developed the previous start time scenarios, to continue that work this year.
Bingham and the district conducted town halls, surveys, interviews, and focus groups regarding the potential change in March and February. According to the memo, they found that 66% of the nearly 10,000 people who responded to the survey “are somewhat or most likely to support a later start time for middle schools,” while “71% of respondents are somewhat or most likely to support a later start time for high schools.”
Members of the community who want to provide testimony at school board meetings can do so by phone, in person, or in written comments. Meetings are streamed live on the school district’s YouTube channel.