Every year around this time the debate about later school start times heats up. Since 1994 doctors and scientists have been recommending that middle school and high school aged students begin classes after 8:30 a.m., but it wasn’t until recently that school administrators started taking these suggestions seriously.
One by one we’ve heard stories of small school districts in states like New York or Rhode Island pushing back their start times, but this year it seems like administrators and parents alike are jumping on board in a big way. In fact, the Seattle School District – the largest in Washington State – made a huge adjustment to their school start time schedules this year. When students walked into school on September 7, the starting bell rang at 8:45 a.m. for most over the age of 11. For Kindergarten through Elementary aged students, start times varied as well. Most elementary schools would be beginning classes at 7:55am, while some K-8 schools would be starting as late at 9:35am.
For a school district this large to take this step is well… huge. It will provide a great case study this year on whether or not school start times do, in fact, affect learning and retention rates as well as how they affect things like home life and extracurricular activities. While experts have been keeping an eye on the smaller school districts to make the change, the impact in smaller systems is a bit harder to measure.
The sample sizes are smaller and the socioeconomic aspects of the situation may not come into play as much as they do in larger districts. For example, one of the primary concerns for parents has been how earlier start times and end times for elementary school children would affect after-school care schedules for parents. After all, if an elementary school starts classes at 7:55 a.m. and ends around 1:55 p.m., what are those parents and children supposed to do? The children are absolutely too young to sit home alone for hours until their parents get home from work, and the cost of child care for those additional hours may put a further burden on an already tight budget for families.
For schools looking to ease the burden on parents while increasing learning and engagement in schools with altered schedules, one suggestion would be to create additional after-school care programs or extracurriculars. Even elementary school aged children can participate in and benefit from after school programs like music lessons, language classes, or even a school play! Schools can use resources like Pay4SchoolStuff.com to solicit volunteers, set-up activity schedules, gather sign-ups and payments, and organizing reporting.
For more information on how your school can implement Pay4SchoolStuff.com to help organize after school programs, check us out online!