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Greenfield Looking at Creative School-Start Time Solutions

Some members of the Greenfield School Board want to change the high school start times, a year and a half after the administration's latest proposal was shot down

In an effort to address the Greenfield School District's on-again, off-again hot topic of school start times without experiencing a significant fiscal impact, district administrators are looking outside the box.

Mostly because their inside-the-box ideas have not gained the majority of the School Board’s approval.

Nearly a year and a half after the Greenfield School Board voted down a proposal to change Greenfield High School's start times from 7:10 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. or later because of concerns of additional busing costs, administrators offered a few new ideas Monday.

The ideas, all in the early stages of development, revolve around the school’s tardiness problem.

In 2007-08, when the GHS start time changed from 7:15 a.m. to 7:10 a.m., the tardy-to-school rate doubled from the previous year, according to data provided to the board by administration. Unexcused tardies to school went from 4,086 in 2006-07 to 7,956 in 08-08. They have remained above 7,000 every year since.

An idea administration floated out to the board Monday was for chronically tardy students to start school at the second hour of the day. Those students could conceivably have no study hall, so they wouldn’t have any less opportunities to acquire credits necessary to graduate, or have a first-hour study hall that would make their arrival time flexible.

Another possibility would be to add another academic period at the end of the school day.

Board member Cathy Walsh said she liked flexible scheduling for all students and regretted the board’s action to change the start time in the first place.

“We should have never let a bus company determine our high school schedule,” she said. “That was a big, big, big mistake. We should be making a schedule and start time based on what’s best for our students academically.

“What’s good about a 7:10 start time? Nothing is good about it, yet we’re defending it as if it’s the best thing that ever happened to our schools. Look where we are academically.”

In May 2011, after an ad hoc committee studied the impact of the early start times, administration proposed a new start time that would have cost the district $210,000 in new busing costs. The board rejected the proposal.

Walsh, who was not on the board at the time, said money should not be the sole deciding factor.

“I want to remind the board that we had a pretty healthy amount of money in our budget (fund balance) last year and the year before that and the year before that,” Walsh said. “We haven’t been spending all of our budget each year. Although I’m not in favor of spending $200,000 on busing, we owe it to the community to do something.”

Board member Rick Moze said making the schedule a flexible one for those with tardiness issues only rewards those who aren’t getting to school on time and would make the problem worse. Dolores Skowronek, a Greenfield parent and member of the executive board of a national coalition called Start School Later, said changes should be made for all students, not just those who are chronically tardy.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” Skowronek said. “Early high school start times, such as ours, do not enhance academic achievement, do not promote wellness and do not prepare students for success. … Our students deserve better.”

Superintendent Conrad Farner said potential impacts of the suggestions presented to the board Monday had not yet been ironed out.

He said tardiness is a problem administration is looking into, and added over the last few years, the administrative team has spent hundreds of hours looking into scheduling changes the board eventually shot down.

“How much more time do you want us to put into it?” Farner said.

School board president Bruce Bailey, who voted against the change in May 2011, said a start time of 7:30 a.m. would be better than the current start time — “Then people couldn’t say we have the earliest start time in the world,” he said — but admitted he’s not sure what else the board can learn that hasn't already been discussed.

The board agreed to revisit the issue at its meeting next month.

Johnny December 19, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Bravo, Cathy Walsh.
Heather Macintosh December 19, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Go Greenfield!
Stacy Simera December 19, 2012 at 03:12 AM
The Brookings Institute issued a Hamilton Project report in September of 2011 - after the ad hoc committee gave its recommendations, it looks like - that estimated a 'conservative' benefit to cost ratio of 9 to 1 for delaying school start times for adolescents. This report, written by economists, looked at the immediate academic and future earnings benefits and concluded that the costs are well worth it - and the costs they specifically looked at was buying more buses. I would encourage Greenfield parents and school officials to read the report if they aren't already familiar with it - a link is below or you can search for it online. Financial benefits from other studies include increased enrollment (if that helps with local tax income), decreased nurse and counselor referrals, and decreased sports injuries (students with one hour more sleep than their peers experience 68% fewer sports injuries in a study released by the AAP two months ago). Decreased depression, diabetes, drug use and car accidents may not impact a school's bottom line, but if the concern is money then anything that helps the community financially helps the school. Hopefully the concern isn't just financial - but if it is then some pretty smart economists say that delaying start times for teens is win, win. Here's a link to the report "Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement": http://www.hamiltonproject.org/files/downloads_and_links/092011_organize_jacob_rockoff_paper.pdf
KHD December 19, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Whattttt. You are going to change the start time later for habitually tardy students? That is what is wrong with our society today. There is no accountability. How about these students are made to wait until second hour to go to class, and are marked absent from first hour. If they end up failing the class and can't graduate, to bad, tough. If you were late for work all the time, would they adjust your start time? NO, you would be fired. My son is a junior at GHS and would not like the later start time, and alot of his friends are also against it. Lets try a litte more discipline, and quit coddling these kids. These high school kids will be in the real world soon and will have to tow the line. I hear from kids that have jobs after school, that they get the hours first, because they can start earlier My son has no problem learning, (3.8 gpa ) because he is responsible enough to get some sleep. He said he would just stay up a little later anyway. MAKE THESE KIDS RESPONSIBLE. It is a cop out to cater to these kids. My god, whats next, a phone call every morning to wake them up? If the parents cant make them have respect for the rules, then let them fail. Thats what is wrong with kids in our society now. We give in to their every whim, NOT at my house. DISCIPLINE FOLKS. Lets have some of that.
David Glazewski December 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM
High School kids are one step away from adulthood, jobs and other responsibilities. How is letting them get a 1st hour study hall because they are always late going to teach them things like getting to work on time. Starting to understand why a person I recently hired (even more recently fired) was late everyday from day 1. We as a society are driving this country over a cliff, financial, and moral, and no one cares cause we bought them a limo for the ride.
Concerned December 19, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Educators and administrators would agree with the responsibility and accountability needed for today's youth. However with all the accountability reforms and performance requirements for schools. The tardiness, truancy, and poor test scores will hurt your children as there will be less opportunities for them as their school under performs. Poor performance = less funding for needed programs at the school.
Stacy Simera December 19, 2012 at 01:10 PM
David and KHD - One thing to consider is that puberty creates a temporary 90-minute later shift in sleep cycle. You two are correct that our high school kids are on the edge of adulthood and need to be taught responsibility, but even the most responsible teen can't help that his brain doesn't release melatonin until an hour and a half later than the rest of the planet. Even colleges are steering away from classes before 8:30 am. There's a recent study of US Air Force Academy cadets in which a 50 minute delay in first class time made a huge difference - and I would guess those are pretty disciplined kids. Once puberty is done (age 22-25 depending on individual differences and gender) young adults are ready for early jobs or college courses.
KHD December 19, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Concerned, you are one of the coddlers. REFORMS. When did they change that it is ok to be late. Why are you posting here so early? you should still be sleeping. Your excuses are just that and have no MERIT. Make these kids be responsible. MY GOD.
KHD December 19, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Stacy, For every study you post, I can post one that says just the opposite. These poor little almost adults, need to GROW up. You are part of the problem, not a solution.
KHD December 19, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Job Interview. Kid just out of highschool: EMPLOYER: Well you start at 7:00 am Monday.YOUNG ADULT: Well Mr. employer I am afraid I wont be able to start that early because my brain doesn't release Melatonin for about an hour and a half after 7:00. But I should be able to start at that time in about 4 to 7 years when my puberty is done. Can you IMAGINE the look on the employers face, hahahahahahaha
Dolores Skowronek December 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
KHD, post those studies. I'd like to see them.
Dolores Skowronek December 19, 2012 at 05:13 PM
KHD, many kids - especially ones as smart as yours will go one to college. I work at a local college and our first class starts at 8:00 in the morning. That's pretty typical for higher education. For students like yours, a 7:10 start time does not prepare them for real life after high school.
CowDung December 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Then how can you explain the many students that have no problem going to school at the early time and performing well? How do these kids deal with daylight savings time if their 90 minute shift is so inflexible?
JustMe December 19, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I agree with you 100 %.
Lee December 19, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Maybe factories and fast food restaurants start at 7 am (or earlier) but most offices start at 8:00 am or later, so let us remove the work thing here. Plus, I would hope these kids go on to further schooling, so getting a job directly out of school is probably not going to happen for the majority of the seniors. 7:10 is too early, period. Has nothing to do with preparing for life. It has everything to do with getting awake kids to school on time.
Johnny December 20, 2012 at 03:28 AM
7:10 is too early for any school to start. Keep adulthood and jobs out of the discussion. They are in school to learn and we should provide them with optimum conditions. Equating working at a job with going to high school is comparing apples to oranges. Why would you be in favor of making kids (yes they still are kids) drag into school so early? I suppose all of you in favor also used to walk 5 miles through waist deep snow to school in your day.
KHD December 20, 2012 at 09:55 AM
Remove work thing?? Some will go on to college, others trade school, others into the work place. I work at a printing co. The factory people start at 7:00 am, Supervisors at 6:30 am. Plant manager 6:00 am, Department managers are in between 6:00 am and 6:15 am. VP. human resources is in by 6:15. IT. manager by 6:30. The President of the co. is always in by 6:15 am. Some sales are in by 7:00 am. And yes then the office staff by 8:00 am. 2/3rds of employees are in by 7:00 am. It has everyting to do about being prepared for real life. Apples to Oranges????? I think not. Why is our neighbor to the south, Greendale, have a much better report card and test scores than greenfield? They start a whopping 14 minutes later. These kids just have to get to bed earlier. How will they ever cope when some just make excuses for them all the time? As I stated, there is no accountability at home or at school. We are raising a bunch of coddled, spoiled, unaccountable kids. A later start time might help some, but alot will still be late.
HairMetalFan December 20, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I work at a hospital in medical records. The majority of us start anywhere from 5:30 to 7:30 AM. Not every office starts at 8.
Johnny December 21, 2012 at 02:50 AM
KHD- you don't get it. School is school and work is work. Some of these kids are 14 years old. They are not even close to getting ready to work in your printing company. They have different sleep cycles and needs. They also do homework at night in addition to any extra curricular activities. They are not being coddled. They are still growing up and learning. I don't agree with letting them be tardy to school but I do know that 7:10 is way too early for a kid to start school. Please don't print your company starting schedules...we get it.....you go to work early. You are working a paying job...these kids are trying to learn.
KHD December 21, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I printed the times because you made it sound like factories and fast food are menial jobs. I Talked with 5 Juniors and my son last night and not 1 was in favor of a later start time. They didn't like the idea of getting out later as some have jobs, sports, extra curricular activities, besides home work. It would just push their schedule back. They ALL said, they would just stay up that much longer. All of them have GPA's 3.00 or above. Not hurting their grades. 14 years old is about time to start getting more responsibilty. Like I said, it is all about responsibility and adjusting. You might have more of a problem with students that like the time now. Some said they would not get hours at work, they get now. Enforce a tough Tardy rule and maybe you will see a difference. If staff really cared about the time, how come they hold swim practice at 5:30 am occasionally? Maybe some have tests on those days? We are not helping them by gving in because some cant make it on time.
Dolores Skowronek December 21, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Hey, KHD – I’m still waiting for you to post all those studies you have that describe the benefits of early high school start times and adolescent sleep loss. I really am interested in looking at those and wish you’d share them.
karen k December 26, 2012 at 01:20 AM
7:10 is too early for teenagers and optimum learning. Who cares what time a printing company starts work. Totally irrelevant.
Stephanie Macklin December 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
You are completely right!
Stephanie Macklin December 27, 2012 at 09:16 PM
There should be no loss of sleep time for the kids because they should have parents that enforce going to bed at a resonable time. Issue solved!!!
KHD December 27, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Karen, You are Irrelevant. It wasnt just the printing company, but all other management jobs as well. Some kids will not go on to college and into the work place. You are part of the problem. Thats ok hunny, mommy will take care of it for you . You just stay up late and I will get the time changed for you. Besides, I think the money would be spent more wisely adding more security measures to our schools. Put this start time thing on hold. I think everyone would agree that is alot more important. Security of our schools should be looked at immediately. There are alot of Ideas out there, lets get this rolling now.
CowDung January 18, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Changing the start times will just push everything later--including bed times. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/teens-health/CC00019/NSECTIONGROUP=2 From the Mayo Clinic: "Resetting the clock The good news is that your teen doesn't have to be at the mercy of his or her internal clock. To help your teen develop better sleep habits: --Adjust the lighting. As bedtime approaches, dim the lights. Then turn off the lights during sleep. In the morning, expose your teen to bright light. These simple cues can help signal when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up. --Stick to a schedule. Tough as it may be, encourage your teen to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — even on weekends. Prioritize extracurricular activities and curb late-night social time as needed. If your teen has a job, limit working hours to no more than 16 to 20 hours a week. --Nix long naps. If your teen is drowsy during the day, a 30-minute nap after school might be refreshing. Be cautious, though. Too much daytime shut-eye might only make it harder to fall asleep at night. --Curb the caffeine. A jolt of caffeine might help your teen stay awake during class, but the effects are fleeting — and too much caffeine can interfere with a good night's sleep."
CowDung January 18, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Continued: "--Keep it calm. Encourage your teen to wind down at night with a warm shower, a book or other relaxing activities. Discourage stimulating activities — including vigorous exercise, loud music, video games, television, computer use and text messaging — an hour or two before bedtime. --Know when to unplug. Take the TV out of your teen's room, or keep it off at night. The same goes for your teen's cellphone, computer and other electronic gadgets."
Maribel Ibrahim February 08, 2013 at 12:33 PM
Last nite, I got 9 hrs sleep. In bed @ 9:30pm (biologically impossible for most teens) & woke @ 6:30am (missed the bus) #sleepcrunch

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