School Start Time Final Report- April 2021

Study of Implementation of Healthy School Start Times in the Fayetteville-Manlius School District

Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., Deborah Temkin, Ph.D., Sarah Her, M.A., Bonnie Solomon, Ph.D., Emily Fulks, B.A., & Sarah Sun, B.A.


In February 2019, the Fayetteville-Manlius School District (FMSD) School Board approved an initiative to a contractual partnership with Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) and Child Trends (CT), to evaluate challenges, opportunities and benefits of changing school start times in their district. This request comes amidst a nationwide trend and legislative initiatives in some states to follow recommendations published by the American Academy of Pediatrics that high school and middle school start times should be after 8:30am.

The three-part contract involves an assessment of challenges and opportunities; collaboration with the FMSD department of transportation to evaluate costs associated with three to five bell schedule scenarios; a community survey to evaluate needs and preferences for bell schedules; town hall meetings to discuss results study findings, educate the community about the rationale for implementing healthy school start times and solicit community participation and input in an open forum.

Table 1 summarizes the current bell schedule for elementary, middle, and high schools in FMSD. This report summarizes the results of the community survey.

Table 1. Current bell schedules for FMSD

Start Time End Time
Elementary 8:45 a.m. 3:25 p.m.
Middle  8 a.m. 2:40 p.m.
High 7:45 a.m. 2:07 p.m.

Summary of Initial Stakeholder Interviews

(Daniel Lewin, Emily Fulks, Bonnie Solomon, & Deborah Temkin)

The study team presented a comprehensive summary key themes and issues raised in stakeholder to the FMSD board in the spring of 2019. This section provides a brief summary of the process and the topics addressed in these meetings.

Key Themes

The majority of interviewed stakeholders were in favor of the general concept of implementing healthy school start times based on the well-established scientific rationale that has documented negative effects on physical and mental health and academics. Stakeholders identified a range of opportunities and challenges as well as methods to facilitate school start time change (hereafter referred to as SSTC). The topics and themes raised by stakeholders are detailed in the sections below, listed in order based on the number of times issues were raised by interviewed stakeholders.

Community Engagement and Communication of the Issue

Stakeholders repeatedly noted that SSTC is a community issue, that it is critical to engage community members in the decision-making process, and that, ultimately, everyone needs to be on board for it to work. Stakeholders emphasized that the goals of community engagement should be building understanding, making people feel valued, and helping to work out the details around how FMSD might implement SSTC. This first step of meeting with a broad range of stake holders was generally viewed as a positive approach and surveys of the community and town hall meetings (both components of the contract with CNMC/CT) were welcomed.

Busing and Transportation

While almost all FMSD stakeholders mentioned bussing and transportation in some capacity, most concerns fell into two main buckets: general costs and timing/logistics of bus routes. Many voiced concerns about the efficiency of bus routes with a general impression that bus utilization is very uneven across elementary, middle and high schools. Double rather than triple tripping (bussing tiers) was raised repeatedly as an option to maximize usage and consolidate routing.

Student Mental Health

Almost all stakeholders mentioned noticeable exhaustion, stress, and anxiety currently experienced by students, particularly at the high school level. Principals and school board members noted the high demands of daily homework combined with extracurricular activities, athletics, and after-school jobs. Stakeholders repeatedly mentioned that students simply do not feel like there is enough time in the day to complete all of their necessary tasks. While a few stakeholders noted that students seem to be more alert and function at a higher level on days when schools have a two-hour delay start, there were also concerns about high school students losing an hour in the evening, which could in turn put more pressure on students to fit more in after school and/or go to sleep later. Stakeholders stressed the importance of conversations surrounding new strategies to improve mental health, mindfulness, and stress relief for their students.


Stakeholders expressed a variety of concerns surrounding the effects SSTC would have on childcare. As school start times shift, hours of operation for childcare facilities must also shift. Various solutions and opportunities included moving some childcare service centers into FMSD schools and allowing high school students to earn credit for participating in childcare activities.

Block Scheduling/Teacher and Staff Contracts

Combining changes in school start times with sweeping changes to academic schedules was a common theme. Most stakeholders were generally enthusiastic about the idea of shifting to block scheduling. They noted that the high school day (based on state guidelines) is too short as it stands now, with no lunch period and very little flexibility. Stakeholders felt that block scheduling would reduce daily homework demands on students. Concerns surrounding block scheduling included resistance to changes in instructional time, resistance to changing the classic model of education that has been in place for many years, and the need to re-negotiate teacher and other staff contracts. Additionally, elimination of home room in high school was suggested.


In terms of athletics, stakeholders were largely concerned with transportation to sports contests and practices, scheduling with other districts, and use of athletic facilities. As the vast majority of sports contests take place in the evening, later high school end times could result in later bus usage and more hours for drivers. None of these problems were viewed as insurmountable, and centralized and highly efficient scheduling of athletics practices and contests would be managed. Benefits and opportunities included elimination of the gap between the end of school and the potential for earlier afternoon practices for some sports and more time to clear fields after snow accumulation.

After-school Programming/Extracurriculars

The key takeaway from stakeholders in terms of after-school activities was a need for assurance that there would be no discontinuation or loss of after-school programming and extracurriculars.

Traffic and Road Safety

Many stakeholders representing different schools noted that there is currently very little room for both buses and cars in building parking lots. There was also concern, primarily for younger children, about waiting for morning buses outside in the dark and cold during a few weeks of the year (see civil twilight table in Appendix A). In terms of high school students, stakeholders were concerned about student drivers sharing the road with many cars during rush hour traffic later in the afternoon, especially in bad weather conditions.

Role of Parents

Stakeholders stressed the importance of parent buy-in to SSTC. Many stakeholders emphasized that, for SSTC to be successful, parents need to be educated about the importance of healthy sleep and related issues so that they can actively encourage healthy sleep habits in their children.

Nearby Districts

The East Syracuse-Minoa (ESM) school district was referenced numerous times by stakeholders as an example of how SSTC has functioned in a nearby community.

Miscellaneous Considerations

  • Modifications to free and reduced-price (FRP) breakfast options
  • Off-campus tutoring centers
  • Students who walk to school
  • Service changes for special needs students



The primary challenges identified by stakeholders are shared by all districts contemplating or implementing SSTC, but there are unique features in the FMSD. If elementary schools are the earliest bussing tier, there may be costs associated with ensuring safety (e.g., following the example of a Rochester district, costs of providing wearable gear with lights so children are visible to buses when pick-up occurs prior to civil twilight). Additional costs may be associated with shifting FRP meals served in school and possible changes to food service in high school to meet potentially high demand during lunch period. Modification of before and after school childcare services will require assessment of community need, an estimate of costs and adequate notice for both parents and childcare providers to adjust to new schedules.

Opportunities and Solutions

There are potential benefits to concurrent consideration of SSTC and modification of high school schedules—including consideration of block schedules, which have received generally positive feedback from teachers, and the addition of a mid-day activities/lunch period. Moreover, these considerations fit well within the context of ongoing discussion, among community members and school leadership, about how best to prioritize student mental health and sleep while maintaining the academic and athletic excellence of FMSD and without compromising extracurricular activities. Stakeholders also perceive SSTC as an opportunity to optimize traffic and bus schedules based on ridership, to increase utilization and minimize early deliveries and wait times.

Challenges associated with child care also present opportunities to develop new child care programs and/or strategies that could benefit high school students (e.g., by bringing programs into FMSD schools and allowing high school students to earn credit for participating in childcare activities). Finally, proactive plans to engage other area private and public schools in discussions of SSTC could lead to coordinated change, which would mitigate potential challenges related to sports schedules.

Summary of the FMSD Stakeholder Survey

(Daniel Lewin, Deborah Temkin, Sarah Her)

CNMC-CT and FMSD fielded the online community survey from October 15, 2019 through November 8, 2019. Survey participants were required to provide a valid email address to complete the survey to reduce the potential for duplication. The survey asked community stakeholders to self-identify their relationship to the district as either a parent of a current student, a school staff member, or an unaffiliated community member. Parents were directed to respond to a series of questions about their children’s school, sleep, and academic and extra-curricular activities. All stakeholders were then asked about their opinions of current school start times and proposed alternative start times.

A total of 1,566 community members completed the survey. Figure 1 provides the breakdown of survey takers by their relationship to FMSD. It should be stressed that this sample is a convenience sample (i.e., survey takers opted in to taking the survey) and not a random selection of the FMSD community. As such, the sample may not be fully representative of the FMSD community.
Of the parents represented, 46.8 percent had a child in elementary school, 41.7 percent had a child in middle school, and 32.9 percent had a child in high school (percentages do not sum to 100 as many parents reported on multiple children).

Figure 1. Survey Participants’ Relationship to FMSD 

Parent: 85.9%

School Staff: 9.4%

Community Member: 4.7%

Total respondents = 1,566

Student Sleep

The survey asked parents to report on the weekday and weekend sleep habits of each child enrolled in FMSD. Parents provided data for 2,317 students (n=894 elementary; n=770 middle; n=653 high). Table 2 presents the average bedtimes, wake times, and sleep durations for students at each grade level.

Table 2. Weekday and Weekend Bed Times, Wake Times, and Sleep Durations by Grade Level
Weekday Weekend
Bed Time Wake Time Sleep Duration Bed Time Wake Time Sleep Duration
Elementary 8:30 p.m. 6:59 a.m. 10.5 hours 9:02 p.m. 7:33 a.m. 10.5 hours
Middle  9:25 p.m. 6:35 a.m. 9.2 hours 9:58 p.m. 8:28 a.m. 10.2 hours
High 10:10 p.m. 6:19 a.m. 7.75 hours 10:35 p.m. 9:27 a.m. 10.0 hours

Although parents tend to overestimate children’s sleep, as compared to student self-report, these data indicate that on average, high school students are receiving less than the 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep per night which is recommended for adolescents.( 1) On average parents reported that only on 52.5% of their children attending high school (start time 7:45am) slept less than 8.5 hours on school nights. Parents of middle school students (start time 8:00am) reported that 95% of their middle school-aged children slept for more than 8 hours of sleep per night with an estimated sleep need in this younger teenage group of 9 to 10 hours. It is important to consider that these reports occurred prior to the start of the global pandemic.

(1) Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., … & Rosen, C. L. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(06), 785-786.

Further, parents reported that their middle and high school students have large discrepancies between their school day and weekend sleep durations, on average 2.25 hours. This is evidence of insufficient sleep during the week and the need for ‘catch up’ sleep on weekends which replace sleep loss during the school week. The drive for increased sleep and a shift in the timing of sleep on weekends is called “social jetlag” which is associated with impaired health and cognitive functioning. This is comparable to living in Central or Pacific Time zones on weekends and returning to eastern standard time on Monday morning. Parents reported that a significantly higher percentage of high school students (64.2%) have trouble waking up in the morning than middle (47.8%) and elementary (48.7%) students. Taken together, short sleep, social jet lag and difficulty waking in the morning are signs of deficient sleep and circadian regulation.

Perceptions of Current and Proposed School Start Times

Current Start Times

Table 3 presents how stakeholders perceive current high school start times. A majority of community stakeholders (73 percent) perceive the high school start time as too early, with 20 percent reporting the current time is “just right.” Breakdowns between stakeholder groups are as follows: 74 percent of parents, 67 percent of school staff, and 67 percent of other community members perceived the high school start time as too early. Among parent groups, 67 percent of those with only elementary-school-aged children perceived the high school start time as too early, while over three-quarters of parents with high school aged students (79%) indicated the current high school start time is too early.

Table 3 Stakeholder perceptions of current high school start time
Too Early Just Right Too Late No Opinion
Overall 72.9% 20.5% 0.6% 6.0%
Parents 73.9% 19.5% 0.5% 6.2%
– Elementary Only 66.6% 20.7% 1.7% 11.1%
– Middle Only 78.0% 16.8% 0.0% 5.2%
– High School Only 76.5% 21.6% 0.0% 2.0%
– Middle and Elementary 77.4% 17.8% 0.0% 4.8%
– High and Elementary 77.8% 14.8% 0.0% 7.4%
– Middle and High 82.1% 16.7% 0.0% 13.9%
– All levels*
School Staff 66.7% 28.0% 0.0% 5.3%
Other Stakeholders 66.7% 25.0% 5.0% 3.3%

Table 4 presents how stakeholders perceive the current middle school start time. Perceptions on the middle school start time were more mixed, with 42 percent of the community indicating the current middle school start time is too early and 48 percent indicating it is “just right.” This split is consistent among parents with middle-school aged students (50% “too early”; 46% “just right”).

Table 4 Stakeholder perceptions of current middle school start time
Too Early Just Right Too Late No Opinion
Overall 41.9% 47.7% 1.9% 8.6%
Parents 43.7% 46.5% 1.5% 8.3%
– Elementary Only 45.0% 42.5% 1.9% 10.5%
– Middle Only 50% 46.4% 1.0% 2.6%
– High School Only 34.4% 44.0% 2.4% 19.2%
– Middle and Elementary 52.4% 45.2% 0.5% 1.9%
– High and Elementary 37.0% 51.9% 0.0% 11.1%
– Middle and High 41.8% 55.2% 1.5% 1.5%
School Staff 28.0% 57.6% 2.3% 12.1%
Other Stakeholders 35.0% 50.0% 8.3% 6.7%

The survey asked stakeholders to consider whether moving the elementary school start time to 7:45 a.m. would be too early, too late, or just right. Just over half of respondents (51.4%) indicated this would be “just right” while 41 percent of respondents indicated this would be “too early.”

Table 5 presents the suggested start times provided by respondents. More than half of respondents suggested starting high schools 8:30 a.m. or later. On average, stakeholder suggested that high schools should start at 8:25 a.m., middle schools at 8:17 a.m., and elementary schools at 8:05 a.m.

Table 5. Stakeholder perceptions of current middle school start time
Before 8 a.m. 8-8:15 a.m. 8:30 a.m. 8:45 p.m. After 9 a.m.
Elementary 39.2% 21.7% 10.9% 26.4% 1.7%
Middle 19.9% 43.5% 23.8% 11.8% 1.1%
High 26.2% 18.6% 27.9% 25.6% 1.8%

Proposed Scenarios

The survey additionally asked participants to assess five potential scenarios and select which they would most and least like FMSD to consider, as follows:

  • Flip elementary and high school start times (elementary moves to 7:45 a.m., high school moves to 8:45 a.m.)
  • Slide all times later (elementary would start at 9:15 a.m., middle at 8:30 a.m., high at 8:15 a.m.)
  • Slide all times and flip elementary and high school (high school start at 9:15 a.m., middle at 8:30 a.m., elementary at 8:15 a.m.)
  • Condense school start times (FMSD would purchase additional buses to allow middle and high schools to start at the same time)
  • Leave current start times

Table 6 presents the most and least preferred options for all community stakeholders. There was no clear preference among the respondents. Approximately one-quarter of respondents selected each of the “flip” (25.5%) and “slide and flip” (24.8%) scenarios as their most preferred.

Conversely, a similar percentage selected these scenarios as their least preferred (27% flip, 22% slide and flip). Approximately 14 percent indicated that leaving current start times was their preferred scenario, and 21 percent indicated it was their least preferred scenario.

Table 6 Most and least preferred school start time options
Most like to see Least like to see
Flip 25.5% 27.1%
Slide 14.7% 14.3%
Slide and flip 24.8% 21.9%
Condense 16.5% 14.3%
Leave current start time 14.1% 21.3%
Other 4.4% 1.2%

To better understand these preferences, we disaggregated by stakeholder type. Tables detailing these disaggregated data are included in the appendix. School staff were significantly more likely to endorse keeping current start times as their most preferred option (23.5%) as compared to parents (12.9%) and community members (20.3%). Community members were significantly
more likely to endorse flipping school start times over the slide and flip scenario. For least preferred scenarios, parents were more likely to dislike the flip scenario (28.4%) as compared to school staff (18.3%) and community members (18.6%) and school staff were more likely to dislike the slide and flip scenario (21.4%) compared to parents (13.5%) and community members

Among parents, those with elementary-aged students were significantly less likely to endorse flipping school start times (17.6% vs. 31.7%) but were slightly more likely to endorse the slide and flip scenario (29.2% vs. 22.2%). Further, parents with elementary-aged students were significantly more likely to say that the flip scenario was their least preferred scenario (40.6% vs. 17.4%). This pattern is flipped for those with high-school aged students, with 36 percent of
parents with high school aged students endorsing the flip scenario (vs. 19.6%) and 20.5 percent endorsing the slide and flip scenario (vs. 28.0%).

Perceived Challenges

The survey asked respondents to consider and rank potential challenges associated with the “flip” scenario where elementary school start times move to 7:45 a.m. and high schools move to 8:45 a.m. The top challenges noted included parental work schedules, after school child care, after school athletic practices, after school extracurricular activities, athletic game schedules, and
before school care. Table 6 notes the number of respondents that endorsed each of the potential challenges and how each scenario ranked, taking into account how respondents who endorsed each response ranked the scenario compared to others. For example, although slightly more respondents included “after school academic enrichment program attendance” as a
challenge, it ranked lower than “before school child care” once weighted by respondent rankings.

Table 7. Potential challenges to “flip” scenario
Rank # Respondents Endorsing
Changes in parents’ work schedule 1 755
After school care 2 719
After school athletic practice schedules 3 712
After school extracurricular program attendance 4 688
Athletic game schedules 5 665
Before school care 6 590
After school academic enrichment program attendance 7 591
Student after school employment 8 527
Changes in teachers’ work schedules 9 504
Before school extracurricular program attendance 10 404
Before school academic enrichment program attendance 11 394
Parent participation in school activities 12 397
Use of school facilities by non-school groups (e.g. Scout troops) 13 370
Commuting distance 14 331
Before school athletic practice schedules 15 383
Changes in staff commute times 16 357
Use of practice fields by non-school groups (e.g. Recreation Department) 17 361

Qualitative Comments

The survey provided participants the opportunity to provide general comments about school start times. A total of 680 participants provided comments. As reflected in the quantitative survey data, comments were mixed between broad support for delaying high school start times,
concerns about advancing elementary school start times, and skepticism about the efficacy of changing school start times on improving adolescent sleep.

Many commenters noted that bus pickup times are often significantly earlier than school start times, requiring current high school students to get on the bus before 7 a.m. This was noted as a  particular concern about the proposed “flip” scenario; many commenters noted that while they generally supported moving elementary start times earlier, moving them to the current high
school start time would require these youngest students to wait for school buses in the dark. As one commenter wrote, “I like the idea of moving elementary start times earlier, but not too early. I think its unrealistic to try to get little kids ready and out the door to catch a bus at 7 a.m. for a 7:45 a.m. start time.”

Many commenters referenced before and/or after school child care with the proposed changes. These comments cited individualized concerns, with some positively noting that moving elementary start times earlier would reduce the need for before school care, while others noted that the shift might require additional after school care, which would be more difficult with high school students still in school when elementary students are released.

Several commenters asked for additional details on when schools would end with the proposed start times. Many suggested FMSD adjust schedules within the school day (length of classes, block scheduling, etc.) to reduce impact on school end times, while delaying school start times.

Other commenters also requested FMSD consider reducing homework loads to help promote students’ abilities to go to bed earlier. Others raised concerns about student athletes missing 8th period and wanting additional consideration for ensuring athletes will not miss instruction for participation in games, particularly with districts that are not considering start time changes.
A sizeable number of commenters noted that adolescents will have to get up early when they enter college and/or the workforce and that they disagreed with the effort to delay school start times.

Many more comments, however, praised FMSD for following the science on adolescent sleep and expressed desire for these changes to come sooner rather than later. As one commenter wrote, “[w]e should be flexible enough to change the schedule to respond to the science. We want to maximize our kids’ chances for success. Please make this happen.” 

Summary and Recommendations

This report provide a summary overview of FMSD stake holders opinions about changes in school start times to meet recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics that adolescents school start times should be 8:30 a.m. at the latest.


In brief, average parent reported sleep duration for middle (9.2 hours, recommended for ages 12-14: 9.5-10 hours) and high school (7.45 hours; recommended 8.50-9.5 hours) students were below recommended ranges. There was documented over sleeping on weekends and a shift in timing of sleep was also evident which is a sign of inadequate sleep in this age group.
These estimated sleep times are comparable if not slightly higher than national averages.

Start Time Preferences and Challenges

A majority of stakeholders rated high school start times as too early and there was a more even split in ratings of the timing of middles school start times. There was a good deal of variability in preferences for the type of change in school start times. A “flip” of high school and elementary school start times received the most ratings with about a quarter of the sample rating the ‘flip’ as either most or least preferable. The “flip and slide” received fewer ratings with a lower percentage rating this scenario as least preferable.


Ratings of potential challenges associated with school start times showed the top 5 concerns being: parent work schedules, after school child care, after school athletic practice, extracurricular activity attendance and athletic game schedules. About one third of the sample provided brief written comments that were mixed between broad support for delaying high school start times, concerns about advancing elementary school start times, and skepticism
about the efficacy of changing school start times on improving adolescent sleep. Other concerns included the efficiency of some of the busing schedules with particular concerns that buses drop high school students at school long before school day starts.

Next Steps

Based on results of the survey there was general agreement for the need to
change high school start times. Based on parent preference and FMSD administrators’ goals, it will be important to select several school start time scenarios and estimate costs and feasibility. The most likely candidates based on stakeholder ratings might be the ’flip’, the ‘slide and flip’, ‘condense’ and ‘slide’.

To better understand stakeholder challenges and to welcome their voices and engage them in the process of consideration of change three town hall meetings were conducted with stakeholders in fall 2020.

FMSD School Start Time Town Hall Summary

In October 2020, the Fayetteville Manlius School District held three virtual townhalls open to Fayetteville-Manlius School District (FM) stakeholders to discuss the opportunities, and benefits of changing school start times. The townhall was led by FMSD Superintendent Dr. Craig Tice and the two researchers who conducted the study, Dr. Daniel Lewin of Children’s National Medical Center and Dr. Deborah Temkin of Child Trends. The three panelists provided the context for consideration of a shift to healthy school start times as well as a review of results of a study conducted by Drs. Lewin and Temkin that included meetings with stakeholders and a district-wide stakeholder survey. During the town hall meeting Drs. Tice, Lewin and Temkin made
introductory comments and then addressed questions, concerns, and feedback submitted by the attendees through a chat-based Q&A platform on Zoom. Attendees were largely parents and family members of FMSD students.

Overall, attendees across the three townhalls expressed varying degrees of support for and concern about changing school start times in the FMSD. General comments of support for changing school start times from attendees cited the benefits of sufficient sleep described by Dr. Lewin during his presentation and the study’s finding that FMSD high school students are not currently getting sufficient sleep based on parent reports on the stakeholder survey. Some attendees provided input on pros and cons for the possible school start time scenarios.

Panelists responded to questions to clarify the research on sleep, the rationale for healthy school start times, transportation and budget concerns; the decision process moving forward; other reasons why students do not get sufficient sleep; challenges for parent and students including childcare and extracurricular schedules. These concerns largely aligned with those found in the study stakeholder survey.

In response to questions and concerns that the district would make the decision to change start times and when the change might go into effect, Superintendent Tice clarified that these town halls are part of an ongoing discussion and consideration of changing school start times that hare under consideration by the district.

Superintendent Tice addressed questions about dissatisfaction with current busing logistics, the effect of the school start time proposals on busing logistics, and associated impacts on the budget such as the purchase of new buses. He discussed the district’s current busing plan during the COVID-19 pandemic and described potential options for busing plans that would accommodate school start time changes, though noted that these options are part of an ongoing conversation with the district transportation department.

Attendees raised concerns about how changes to school start times may affect and create challenges for other schedules, such as inflexibility of parents’ work schedules, the scheduling of extracurricular activities (e.g. middle school enrichment activities and athletic practices and event that compete with schools in other districts whose school end times do not align), and the need for before and after care options (e.g., due to parent work schedules and high school students’ later release time and thereby decreasing time that they can watch their younger siblings who would have earlier release times). Panelists discussed how these concerns may be addressed by the district.

Some attendees expressed hesitation on whether changing the school start time would adequately address the sleep needs of students and solve the issue of high school students not getting enough sleep. They noted other reasons that students may not get enough sleep such as screen time, social media, video games, and technology; extracurricular activities and jobs;
schoolwork workload; and familial responsibilities such as caring for younger siblings. Panelists recognized these concerns and emphasized the research demonstrating that changes in high school start times increased the proportion of students achieving sufficient sleep.

A few attendees expressed general skepticism about the need to change school start times, noting that previous generations attended school with the current start times and that late start times do not necessarily exist after high school (e.g., college and employment). Panelists discussed these comments and highlighted the importance of sleep health during the adolescent years in particular as well as other advances in public health (e.g., mandatory use of seat belts and the infant Back to Sleep campaign which were initially unpopular).

Panelists also discussed the experience of other school districts that have changed their school start times, such as Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, and their lessons learned with regard to some of the concerns raised by attendees.

By design, the Town Halls largely served as an opportunity for stakeholders participate in the process of implementing healthy school start times by giving voice to their support and concerns.

Transportation Consultation

Formal consultation with the FMSD Transportation department was not pursued as they were able to provide some preliminary estimates of changes in routing. There remained too many open questions with regard to changes in bussing particularly in the context of the pandemic. Key questions to be addressed with regard to routing and bell schedules include: double versus triple tripping; post-COVID pandemic schedule changes; limiting windows on delivery times (e.g., decreased waiting time on busses and drop offs no more than 15 minutes prior to class starts); impact of block scheduling, optimizing routes based on utilization with secondary options if need changes; impact of changes to block schedules. Each of these factors will impact transportation planning.

Final summary and Recommendations

The FMSD school district has a long history of excellent in educational standards, student success and extracurriculars and athletics. The community is exceedingly proud of their schools and has multitude of strong voices and a diversity of opinions on a broad range of subjects that ultimately leads to increased buy-in and commitment. The dedication to pre-eminent education and child health are impressive and no doubt sets the standard for other districts in the region.

Consideration of implementation of healthy school start times began with interest in changes to the structure of the high school curriculum. This is a common starting point for school districts that consider multiple concurrent and complimentary changes. Change in any domain–particularly when there are traditions, long term successes, and a strong and active community–
presents challenges given the diversity of opinions, but primarily provides opportunity for advances. This appears particularly true in the FMSD. As we have emphasized in interim reports during this process, an essential ingredient to implement changes is leadership from administration and at least a few school board members, and/or a very strong grassroots movement that is committed to change. The actual implementation, stakeholder adaptation and minor correction after implementation to healthy school start times is typically far easier than the process of a community considering change to which there is often resistance that is based more on anticipation than on fact and experience document in school districts throughout the country.

While our team is committed to child health, child development and education which includes sleep health and work from the findings of the best scientific research, we have no secondary gain or conflicts of interest that inform our recommendations. Based on the science, our findings from the FMSD stakeholder survey that indicated a majority support for changing high school start times, and our analysis of resources, barriers and benefits, we strongly encourage implementation of healthy school start times in FMSD to meet the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As noted by members of the school board and principals, the implementation of healthy school start times should be considered with other opportunities including changing the structure of the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and other essential services such as childcare and free school lunch.

While there was some difference of opinion, particularly among different stakeholder groups, specifically teachers versus those of parents of children in high, middle and elementary school, there was preference for either a flip of high school and elementary school bell schedules or the flip and slide scenario. It is important to note that although parents of elementary school students were largely supportive of later high school times, many expressed concern about moving elementary school start times to the current high school start time. Considerations about ensuring the safety and needs of elementary students and their parents should be prioritized in parallel to creating healthy school start times for high school students.

Based on the survey and comments by stakeholders there are several key factors that will require some additional study to facilitate a successful and easy implementation of healthy school start times. These issues are listed roughly in order of importance:

  • Conduct a brief study of need and provide alternatives for before and after school childcare and coordinate with community providers as well as including high school students as younger child caregivers;
  • Determine optimal timing of enrichment programs;
  • Optimize transportation by: evaluating utilization; select optimal routing by consider optimal morning double or triple tripping; eliminate wait times prior to first bells for all grades;
  • Optimized timing of free meal programs; and 
  • Develop a communication plan including 3-6 month notification period for implementation healthy school start times.


Table A.1. Most preferred school start time scenarios

Flip Slide Slide & Flip Condense No Changes Other
Overall 25.5% 14.7% 24.8% 16.5% 14.1% 4.4%
Parents 25.0% 16.0% 25.5% 16.4% 12.9% 4.2%
– Elementary 20.2% 18.0% 27.4% 19.3% 11.6% 3.6%
– Middle 22.6% 17.4% 26.8% 16.3% 15.3% 1.6%
– High  41.1% 13.8% 18.6% 9.5% 12.7% 4.4%
– Middle & Elementary 14.5% 13.5% 31.9% 20.8% 11.1% 8.2%
– High & Elementary 7.4% 22.2% 29.6% 25.9% 14.8% 0.0%
– Middle & High 32.8% 15.7% 21.6% 15.7% 9.7% 4.5%
– All levels*
School Staff 23.5% 4.6% 24.2% 18.9% 23.5% 5.3%
Other Stakeholders 39.0% 10.2% 11.9% 11.9% 20.3% 6.8%

*Percentages for parents with students in all levels are suppressed due to small cell size

Table A.2. Least preferred school start time scenarios

Flip Slide Slide & Flip Condense No Changes Other
Overall 27.1% 21.9% 14.3% 14.3% 21.3% 1.2%
Parents 28.4% 21.5% 13.5% 13.9% 21.5% 1.3%
– Elementary 43.4% 27.6% 4.7% 9.4% 13.8% 1.1%
– Middle 19.5% 15.3% 14.8% 19.0% 31.1% 0.5%
– High  11.8% 16.1% 23.9% 20.0% 27.1% 1.2%
– Middle & Elementary 35.1% 24.5% 9.6% 10.6% 18.3% 1.9%
– High & Elementary 48.2% 22.2% 3.7% 7.4% 18.5% 0.0%
– Middle & High 17.2% 19.4% 23.1% 17.2% 21.6% 1.5%
– All levels*
School Staff 18.3% 25.2% 21.4% 15.3% 19.1% 0.8%
Other Stakeholders 18.6% 23.7% 15.3% 20.3% 22.0% 0.0%

*Percentages for parents with students in all levels are suppressed due to small cell size.

Table A.3. Parents’ most preferred school start time scenarios by grade of children

Flip Slide Slide & Flip Condense No Change Other
Elementary School Parents 17.6% 16.6% 29.2% 20.1% 11.6% 5.0%
No Elementary Parents 31.7% 15.4% 22.2% 13.1% 14.1% 3.5%
Middle School Students 22.0% 15.4% 27.6% 17.8% 12.2% 4.9%
No Middle School Students 27.2% 16.4% 23.9% 15.4% 13.3% 3.7%
High School Students 36.1% 15.0% 20.5% 18.4% 11.8% 4.1%
No High School Students 19.6% 16.5% 28.0% 12.5% 13.4% 4.3%

Table A.4. Parents’ least preferred school start time scenarios by grade of children

Flip Slide Slide & Flip Condense No Change Other
Elementary School Parents 40.6% 26.3% 6.4% 9.7% 15.7% 1.3%
No Elementary Parents 17.4% 17.1% 19.9% 17.7% 26.7% 1.2%
Middle School Students 25.0% 19.9% 14.8% 15.2% 23.8% 1.3%
No Middle School Students 30.9% 22.7% 12.5% 12.9% 19.8% 1.2%
High School Students 15.8% 17.5% 22.3% 18.2% 24.9% 1.2%
No High School Students 34.6% 23.5% 9.1% 11.7% 19.8% 1.3%

*Parents can have multiple students and thus may appear in multiple cells