Littleton considers changing school start times

LITTLETON - When Littleton Public Schools started to float the idea of having middle and high school students start classes later, Tamiko Abo became concerned because it means her daughter would have start classes earlier.

"It starts at 9:06 right now and they would go to 8 o'clock," Abo said.

Her daughter attends Wilder Elementary School in Littleton. The school district is proposing a change that Superintendent Brian Ewert says has support across the district.

"We have about 65 percent of our parents and staff that would support flipping our start times meaning elementary would go a bit earlier and high schools and middle schools would go later," Ewert said.

He says research shows that teenagers need more sleep which leads to better performance in school.

"The circadian sleep patterns of our adolescent kids is really out of alignment with really how we start and end our school days," Ewert said.

But, Abo says other studies show that elementary school students need more sleep, too.

"The research that is out there for elementary school kids is that it is detrimental to their learning," Abo said.

Ewert says he has seen that data.

"The research around elementary sleep isn't as significant," Ewert said. "There are some studies out there. It's just not as compelling and I wouldn't say it's been replicated over and over."

Abo says the earlier time poses a risk to her daughter, as well.

"The impact for me is safety because she does take the bus, so she'll have to take the bus a lot earlier," Abo said.

Another parent, Kristin Dalny says an earlier start time would also have a ripple effect on what happens after school.

"I feel like they are trading one problem for another," Dalny said. "It's hard for parents to be home for their kids at 2:30 in the afternoon."

Dalny says most after-school activities don't start that early and it would impact family time at night because her two kids would have to go to bed earlier.

"It almost feels like it is a done deal," Dalny said.

The Littleton School Board will address the issue Thursday night before a likely vote on the issue on March 23. Superintendent Ewert says finding a solution is not easy.

"How do we improve the system and look for balance. Look for balance between the hardship change can bring to a community to set of parents and kids, but also knowing what is the right thing to do for our kids and our teachers," Ewert said. "We want to make sure that we're finding that sweet spot to make sure that we're not having any of our kids either lose out on significant sleep or to start too early." 

The neighboring Cherry Creek School District is considering a change similar to the proposal in Littleton. Cherry Creek's school board will vote on the matter next week.

Abo hopes the Littleton school board can reach some kind of compromise for all families.

"I think the biggest thing that we would like to gain is that the school district look at all of the information before they make a final decision," Abo said.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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