Lawrence school district survey shows parents, students prefer later high school start times
Staff, however, prefers current schedule
photo by: Nick Krug
Students and parents are supportive of a later start time for Lawrence high schools, a new survey by the district has found. High school teachers are less enthused. The split may result in the district taking an extra year to study the issue.
Among other points, the district’s high school start time advisory committee suggests taking more time to review options, potentially implementing any changes in August 2020 — a year later than once proposed.
The committee began meeting in July 2018, and in the time since has conducted research, focus groups and surveys of district parents, students and staff. Deputy Superintendent Anna Stubblefield will give a report on the findings at the school board’s Monday meeting.
The committee does affirm the health and academic benefits to students that are associated with getting additional sleep, according to its recommendation to the board. However, “we recommend a committee continues to meet (starting now) to look at broader issues, including, but not limited to, a staggered start time, redesign, a later start time but not a later ending time and an extended school year, seminar” to implement in 2020.
Currently, the school day runs from 8:05 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., with a 7 a.m. “zero hour.” Alternative options presented in the district’s surveys included school days from 8:30 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. with a 7:30 a.m. zero hour, or school days from 9 a.m. to 4:05 p.m. with an 8 a.m. zero hour.
All groups surveyed online except high school staff answered with a majority preferring one of the two proposed later start times.
Roughly 40 percent of 1,737 parents surveyed online preferred the status quo; 52 percent preferred a later start time, as the 8:30 start and the 9 a.m. start both garnered about 26 percent of parents’ votes.
Of 200 parents surveyed by phone, 53 percent said they preferred the status quo, 35 percent preferred the 8:30 start, and 10 percent preferred the 9 a.m. start.
Among 834 high school students surveyed, about 36 percent said they preferred the current schedule, and 46 percent preferred a later start (26 percent chose an 8:30 start, and 20 percent preferred the 9 a.m. start). The 969 middle school students’ responses, respectively, came out to roughly 30 percent for the status quo and 52 percent for a later start time (29 percent for 8:30, 23 percent for 9 a.m.).
Of 352 high school staff surveyed online, 50 percent preferred no change and 32 percent would like a later start time, as both options for later starts garnered roughly 16 percent of the vote.
Respondents to the online surveys also had choices of no preference, not sure or other.
School board members will vote Monday on whether to approve the committee’s recommendations and determine what, if any, action to take. They could move to start a new committee immediately or at a later date to look at the various options.
In other business, the board will:
• Hear an update on the district’s capital outlay fund, plus a summary of priority projects for this spring and summer. The board will consider the 2019 capital improvement plan at its Jan. 28 meeting.
• Consider renewing licenses with PowerSchool at a cost of $181,977. PowerSchool is the all-in-one software the district purchased in 2017 to replace individual systems for student information, special education individualized education programs (IEPs), library management and more. That item is on the consent agenda, meaning it’s considered routine enough for board members to consider along with other items in one motion, unless a board member or the superintendent pulls it for discussion.
• Consider allowing staff to pursue capital lease financing for an estimated $1.97 million in computer equipment. Final approval of the financing would come back to the board at a later date. That item is also on the board’s consent agenda.
• Vote whether to adopt the 2019-2020 calendar draft. The draft proposes splitting professional days rather than holding them back-to-back, and starting kindergarten classes on the same day as grades one through five.
The board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. View the complete agenda at usd497.org.
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