Fayetteville-Manlius School District officials want to know how parents, guardians, district staff and community members think a potential change in school start times could impact a number of factors, including parents’ and student’s work schedules, before- or after-school child care, after-school activities and athletics.
The F-M Board of Education tasked Daniel Lewin of the Children’s National Health System, which specializes in a range of pediatric services and research, including sleep as it relates to school start times, and his colleagues to explore the potential benefits and challenges associated with changing school start times.
In April, Lewin and his colleagues conducted 34 interviews and group discussions with a number of stakeholders—including students, staff, parents and board members— to inform their study and identify common themes and issues. They plan to continue gathering feedback through an online survey released Oct. 15 and available through Nov. 7.
When someone clicks on the provided link, they will be asked to enter an email address to which a survey link will be sent. In some cases, depending upon the server housing the email account, the automatic email will arrive within minutes of the request; for others, it could take up to 10-15 minutes. The emailed survey link will not expire so the survey could be taken at a later date from when the request is made.
Individual responses are private, and the consultants will not share survey respondents’ names with the district.
The consultants plan to use the survey feedback to shape and guide community forums tentatively planned to be held in early winter. The group expects to present a final report in the spring to the board, which will then review and discuss the findings before making a decision on whether to move forward with modifying school start times.
The timeline of the study has been pushed out from its original schedule, which showed the report being delivered to the board in November.
“We are taking our time with this process to make sure we get the most accurate picture possible,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “We spent more time than anticipated on crafting the survey to make sure we are asking the right questions to fully understand the implications of a shift in school start times. If we decide to make a change based on the feedback gathered throughout this study, we would not make the shift for the 2020-21 school year.”
Why consider a change?
Many school districts across the country are investigating changing their school start times so that high school students start classes later. Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence, meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11 p.m., according to the National Sleep Foundation. And teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night to function their best, according to the foundation.
At F-M, the high school starts at 7:45 a.m. The two middle schools each start at 8 a.m. and the three elementary schools begin at 8:45 a.m., in part because the F-M bus fleet is dispatched in three distinct intervals (high school, middle school and elementary runs).
In 2016, the American Medical Association issued a policy statement that middle and high school start times begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The F-M High School Site-Based Team, which is made up of parents, teachers, administrators and students, brought the issue to the board of education, asking for a district-wide study related to start times.