By Nicholas von Wettberg
The Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) moved one step closer to implementing a later start policy for its junior and senior high schools.
At their most recent meeting, on Thursday, December 17, the Board of Education unanimously passed a motion on an item that outlined the district’s exploratory process into pushing back school start times to 8:30 am.
Board member Alan Fernandes thanked the district staff for their work on the report, and their “effort and energy to really drive at what the board was after.”
Clinical research shows that teens should receive between 8.5 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Not only that, multiple studies now link the amount of sleep to teens’ behavior and academic performance.
The later start project was launched earlier this year, in an effort by the district and the board to develop the most feasible way of installing a new scheduling system with definitely more to it than meets the eye.
“I know what an endeavor this is, although it would not seem as such to casual observers certainly to adjust start times by a few minutes, here or there,” Fernandes said.
In the update, Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services Matt Best provided the five-member board with areas of exploration made by one of three subcommittees dedicated to education, measurement, and scheduling.
Best said the busiest of the three was the scheduling subcommittee.
And for good reason, because it was also the area over which the board had the most concern, especially the ever-impactful junior high school co-enrollment program.
In fact, Vice President/Clerk Barbara Archer gleaned enough information from the report and the presentation to find the elephant in the room.
Archer remarked that, while she understood about the amount of logistics involved and unforeseen things occurring, she had concerns that pieces of the puzzle regarding the co-enrollment program would impede the early implementation to parts of the later start schedule.
“I hope that we’re not discouraging a quicker timeline on the basis of 30 students and 3 courses,” Archer said. “Has there been any discussion by the committee on that?
Best responded to her statement and question in two-part format. First, he explained that there had been relatively no disagreement about the reason for pushing back school start times, although he pointed out there was some difference in opinion over the relationship between start times and actual amount of sleep.
Board member Tom Adams asked about the measurement process in terms of effectiveness.
According to Best, the end time of school “is really the critical component in terms of the duration of the day and then because of Davis High School’s duration of day now the reality is if you want to move school back and end it around the same time you have got to talk about a schedule format issue.”
At that point, the question Archer had posed to Best was answered.
“The second question, about co-enrollment – quite frankly this is a taboo subject,” Best said. “It’s something that it’s a relatively small number of students but it has a big impact on a large program…”
Board member Susan Lovenburg asked for clarification on the process of co-enrollment, and the change from junior high to senior high. She inquired about the grades involved with the three foreign languages (Chinese, German, Japanese) offered off-site at Davis High School.
Parts of the discussion centered on the maintenance of consistent schedules at the junior high schools where co-enrollment would be offered (during 1st period).
Best cited the co-enrollment currently between Harper Junior High School and Holmes Junior High School.
There was some reluctance from trustee Lovenburg in that the “spin-off negative consequences might outweigh the benefits to the system overall.”
“And I’m still skeptical on that, but one of my key concerns has been this North Davis High School, and just honestly, school traffic going in all directions at the same time…”
Best said the district committee met with the city traffic manager and the police department, and their biggest concern was at the intersection of 14th and B Streets.
One of the recommendations included, in the item up for motion that Lovenburg requested to hear more on, was the formation of a nexus between secondary and elementary schools.
The adjustment of elementary school start time likely will result from later start times in junior and senior high schools.
In regards to staggered start times between junior high and elementary schools, Best said that he met with elementary school principals to see about the impact on families.
“So one of the things that has come up, could we open the library 30 minutes before school starts?” Best asked. “You know at the elementary sites they just don’t let people onto the site early…because there’s no place to watch them.”
It was explained that some students are dropped off at secondary sites well over an hour before the start of school, most often to accommodate parents’ work schedules.
“One of the key considerations around the elementary school parents and their work schedules I would think and I don’t know if the change that you proposed would be beneficial, or not beneficial,” Lovenburg said. “I would think that would be the question we want to ask.”
Trustee Lovenburg suggested a survey on the issue for parents, in an effort to be as thorough as possible.