Ann Arbor high school start times won't be changing anytime soon
After forming a multi-faceted committee to study the topic of high school start times, Ann Arbor administrators did not find compelling evidence in favor of pushing back the start of the day for the district’s teens.
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A group of 14 people from AAPS — including administrators, Washtenaw Intermediate School District Transportation Director Tom Moore, several parents and Huron Athletic Director Dottie Davis — met repeatedly to discuss the feasibility of later start times at the high schools.
The committee also was charged with considering how implementing a later start time could impact transportation, athletic schedules and childcare arrangements.
High school start times in Ann Arbor currently are around 7:40 a.m., middle schools start at 8:10 a.m. and elementary schools start at 8:48 a.m.
The committee presented the four most plausible transportation scenarios that would be necessary to make later start times a reality for the board’s consideration Wednesday night.
The first scenario would have required more runs and thus additional salaries and benefits for drivers. The second scenario would call for a 25 percent increase in the number of buses required to transport eligible students. The third would keep the same busing system the district currently has but push back the start time of all grades by 15 minutes. And the fourth scenario would be to do nothing and maintain the current bell times as well as bus schedule.
“As a committee, we were not convinced the research suggests that if we make these huge adjustments, we will see huge academic gains,” she said.
Trustee Andy Thomas asked if transportation were not the major constraint and the district decided to eliminate transportation for high school students anyway, “what would be the recommendation for the start time if we could just make it any time?”
Flye said it is the recommendation of the committee that the group conduct a survey of elementary, middle and high school students to get a better understanding for how a later start time might impact them.
“The committee felt like it wanted more measurable information from people in the community, as the committee is still an active committee,” Flye said.
The board gave the administration the OK to move forward with the survey, but largely did not want to spend too much time on this topic right now, especially if the benefits of a later start to the school day were not overwhelming.
“For me, it is is the research actually 100 percent in favor of this? Will this absolutely make what we’re doing (academically for students) so much stronger? And I’m not convinced,” said Trustee Irene Patalan.
Trustee Susan Baskett suggested making the survey and further study of the high school start times topic a student project.
“If we guide them and show them how to design it,” Baskett said. “I agree we can’t put this completely to rest until we have more input, but I’d be in favor of fewer resources on the staff. Kids could give us a lot of info in a short period of time.”
Trustee Glenn Nelson echoed that start times should revert to low on the priority list.
“What we have here relative to what else we’re being forced to look at, this is not a big issue.”