Will Nashville public schools change high school start times?
Exploring whether Nashville public schools should start high school later in the morning could again become a topic for the district’s board.
Recently elected Metro Nashville Public Schools Board member Gini Pupo-Walker broached the topic during a recent school board retreat, reviving an issue looked at numerous times over the years.
The idea became more prominent last week on Twitter during a debate among school board members and parents about the merits of changing start times.
Changing the schedule of schools could prove a difficult task and would require plenty of consideration over different logistical concerns.
Pupo-Walker said she isn’t committed to any change, only to the process of looking into the matter.
“I promised I would start the process to explore the topic and what it would take in terms of transportation and cost,” Pupo-Walker said. “I don’t know the answer to that yet.”
Does it have support?
Pupo-Walker hasn’t had a formal conversation about changing start times with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph but plans to sit down with the superintendent.
It is likely Nashville public schools staff would be open to hearing suggestions about changing high school start times, said Robert Johnson, a district spokesman.
And a renewed conversation has support from other school board members.
Board members Jill Speering and Amy Frogge have been proponents of such a change.
Frogge said she is glad the board is looking to consider “making this positive change for our students.”
What are the hurdles?
The district staggers school start times so high schools start first, then elementary schools, followed by middle schools. The schedule ensures there are fewer bus routes at one time, requiring less buses overall.
To make a change to school start times, Johnson said, there are numerous considerations, including costs. Other considerations include:
- Bus schedules
- Teachers’ schedules and their families’ need for daycare
- The age at which young children would be waiting for an early morning bus
- Families who need teenagers to be at home to help with afternoon child care
- Teenagers’ after-school job responsibilities
- High school athletic practices and events
How could it benefit students?
Studies have shown that a later start time for middle and high school greatly benefits the students.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, a national association of pediatricians, recommended in 2014 based off the studies that districts try to delay the start of middle and high school class to 8:30 a.m. or later.
“Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty,” a statement from the association said.
The research, according to the association, showed that “delaying school start times helps students perform better in school, makes them less likely to be overweight or suffer from depression, and reduces the chance of automobile accidents.”
Pupo-Walker said the cost could be the most prohibitive piece of shifting school start times.
“A barrier previously was the fiscal note attached, and that is a legitimate issue,” Pupo-Walker said. “We don’t have money, as is, and I am not going to propose we buy 50 buses to undertake this change.”
Pupo-Walker hopes the board can hear concerns from families about the way the schedule is formatted now, along with any future proposals.
She also wants to hear from teachers and administrators.
“I’d love to have focus groups … to figure out if we have the appetite for such a change,” she said.[Read more at the Tennessean]