School Board To Hear Status Report On Later Start Program

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep DeprivationBy Nicholas von Wettberg

After a month-long break, the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) School Board will meet later this week at the City Hall Community Chambers for the final time of the calendar year.

One item on the agenda for Thursday, Dec. 17, is a status report made by the district about the exploratory process into implementing a later start policy for its junior and senior high schools.

Since February, the five-member board has heard multiple presentations on the necessary steps to install a system, that, if eventually approved by trustees, would push back starting times at least half an hour for each of the DJUSD schools.

The potential change in schedule seems like the logical move, considering the mounting piles of clinical evidence that recommend adolescents receive 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep per day.

And parents know all too well that, once kids reach a certain age, their body clocks begin to change. And because of those unique Circadian rhythms, falling asleep before 11 pm can be a nightly chore for many teenagers.

The district has resisted diving head first into a later start school system, opting instead for a wait-and-see approach, where delegated committees (awareness, scheduling, measurement) can explore all the facets to the multi-layered process.

Education within the community is the first step in the staff’s latest recommended course of action, which includes informing parents, teachers, students, and the public about “the importance of sleep for teens and the factors that affect the quality and duration of teenage sleep.”

The second course of action, recommended by the staff, is to readjust the logistics for co-enrollment — the purpose being that it distinguishes the schedules between junior and senior high schools. The proposal allows for the world language program at the high school level to remain intact for at least two more years.

As for a timeline of when junior high schools can expect the change to an 8:30 am start, the district staff says in its report that it “will occur no later than the 2017-18 school year.”

The senior high schools are beginning a stretch that will focus on a start time of 8:30 am and ending time of approximately 3:30 pm. Once again, co-enrollment will be accounted for, and the projected implementation target is the 2017-18 school year.

During the 14-month period, opportunities for senior high school staff will be available to “explore schedule format options, engage stakeholders and participate in relevant professional development if necessary.”

The fifth and final recommended course of action is to continue the exploration process but look into seeing whether times for elementary schools require adjustment.

The report leaves the process up for judgment if there are aspects that could be implemented before the objective timeline of the 2017-18 school year.

A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) backed what other health organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended for years: the delay of start times for secondary schools.

In its presentation, the district reported that over two thirds of Davis High School students polled said they received less than 8 hours of sleep daily.

With the amount of sleep that adolescents get at the core of the issue, their learning process/brain function is marginalized. Just as important are the risks that accompany sleep deprivation: obesity and depression.

Parents, who are often accused of “resetting the academic clock” through their reluctance to change, face tough decisions when it comes to a later start schedule.

They are the most vocal opponents of the system because of concerns with after-school transportation/child care, babysitting, and kids’ extracurricular activities like athletics.

In January, parents of district students will have an opportunity to learn more about the later start system on Tuesday, January 26, at the 4th annual DJUSD Parent Engagement Night.

The event, titled “Helping Your Child Thrive in School,” is from 6 to 9 pm, and will be held at the Harper Junior High School multipurpose room.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. hpierce

    Author’s credentials?  Thought that was “standard” for independent pieces…

    That said, the author makes apparently (pun intended) valid points, worthy of discussion.

  2. wdf1

    D.P.:  how will they accommodate people’s work schedules with a later start time?

    I understand that 8:30 a.m. is the current proposed start time secondary grades.  That is the same start time that elementary schools currently have.  For instance, see this.  I think 8:30 is generally feasible with the work schedules of most parents.

    It maybe worth discussing if having all schools in the district start at 8:30 creates any greater or unsafe traffic situations.  Right now start times are staggered, with HS having the earliest, then JH, then elementary schools.

    1. hpierce

      The traffic situation, and safety issues would be greatly resolved if parents had the students walk or bike to school.  What a concept!  Solves traffic, air quality, safety, obesity concerns!  Will never happen… Davis folk won’t stand for that… but it was my reality growing up.


      1. wdf1

        I think your point is well-made.  What I think has happened in Davis, though, is that families find various reasons for their kids not to go to their neighborhood schools — programs like GATE, Spanish Immersion, Montessori, Dual Immersion.  NCLB also allowed parents to transfer their kid out of a ‘failing’ school if they opted.  I think about half of Davis elementary schools were falling into that category at the end of NCLB.  I don’t think that kind of demographic mobility existed in past decades.

        1. hpierce

          No… they may be minor factors… the two main factors I perceive… at the HS level (and Davis High is just down the street from ND Elementary) is affluence and a perception of “entitlement”… witness the number of 2-3 year old BMW’, Volvos, etc. in the HS parking lot… they do not belong to the teachers.

          At the lower grades, the problem, as I see it, is parents who don’t let their kids ride bikes or walk to school, because of the ‘traffic’… so they drive their kids to school…  duh… as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy, and it is us”.

          Davis is ~ 5 miles wide and 2 miles deep.  The HS is near the centroid.  The JHS’s are evenly spaced (sort of).  As  kid, starting at age 6, I rode a bike or walked  3/4 mile to, school… no biggie.  In HS, if I couldn’t catch the bus (frequently, as I did because of extra-curricula activities), I walked ~ 2 miles home (no, it wasn’t uphill both ways…).  Never felt abused.  Read books/homework as I walked. Lived to tell the tale with no ‘near-misses’.

          Between Unitrans, bike lanes, sidewalk, bike/ped paths, unless there is a physical challenge, or carrying an instrument, I see little/no need for all the cars dropping kids off to school.  Those car trips are the danger, both to the students, and to the environment.

        2. wdf1

          hpierce:  No… they may be minor factors… 

          Minor?  That’s not the way it’s reported when numbers are attached.  DJUSD regularly has a demographic study done of its student population.  The consultant who regularly puts together the study and report comments that no other school district has as high a rate of internal transfer as Davis.

          Davis Enterprise, March 31, 2013:  Schoolhouse rocked: Parental choices can make waves


          These various special programs draw a lot students. Spanish Immersion at Chávez has the largest number of students of any elementary school in the district — 628 students — but it has no defined attendance area. Students come from across town, on a voluntary basis. Birch Lane draws 227 students from outside its attendance area — most coming for the Montessori program at that campus. All told, 38 percent of Birch Lane’s students come from outside the school’s attendance area.

          Willett Elementary draws 42 percent of its students from outside its attendance area. This reflects enrollment in GATE classrooms, but also a number of children whose families live outside the school district, with a parent who works in Davis and therefore qualifies for an interdistrict transfer.

          All in all, the number of students transferring between local elementary schools makes for an unusual situation. Scott Torlucci, who works for Davis Demographics Inc., the Southern California-based research firm that prepares enrollment projections for the Davis district, has told the school board he’s never seen a district with a higher percentage of transfers.

    2. davismom

      A staggered start between elementary and the high school is critical.  In the area of the high school there are two elementary schools as well as the high school.  I think combining teenage drivers and elementary school children, who have to cross busy streets like F Street, 14th Street or B Street, is a really bad idea.

      On the biking side of things the bike tunnel under the railroad tracks is already a nightmare.  Having elementary, junior and high school students all attempting to get to school at the same time will make it 10x worse than it already is.

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