School start times could change next fall in Anchorage

As the school season fast approaches, the question of whether the Anchorage School District should change its school start times faces the district. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The Anchorage School District will look into a later school day for older students, during this fall. The school district will conduct a community survey. While a change in start times, the decision could come at a cost.

Right now the Anchorage School District’s high school’s days begin at 7:30 a.m., while middle school students begin at 8:15 a.m. and most elementary school students at 9 a.m.

A later start time, could lead to a lower number of students being tardy, increase attendance and  help ensure students are driving more safer. A later start time could also cause students to be more alert and more engaged throughout the day. The AASM advises that students aged 13 to 18 receive eight to 10 hours of sleep each night to promote good health.

Schools across the country tend to start classes earlier so they can get back home in time to take care of younger siblings. An earlier start keeps students from walking to school or bus stops during high traffic.

A later start time would backlog buses. Staggering the institution of new start times would ease the need of buses. Some school officials have come up with the idea of holding school between 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which would give students the opportunity to fit classes around their work schedules or family needs. One student wants to see the high school start times turned back to 8:30 a.m. Matthew Park filed an online petition and received more than 4,700 signatures by last Wednesday.

Anchorage Education Association supported having the conversation but would have numerous affects on our community.

“If the school day were to begin later, sports practices and games might be pushed later. Is that good for our kids?” he said. “How would a later school day affect opportunities for kids to hold part-time jobs in the evenings, some of whom do so to help support their families? What about before-and-after day care issues for elementary students and the impacts on families whose parents may or may not be able to change their work schedule to match the new school times?”

While the debate continues over a later start time, teachers, students continue to be at odds over a later start time. We will see what the district decides next fall. A later start time could be beneficial for the school superintendent.