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Posted on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Should Ann Arbor change school start times? New survey asks parents

By Danielle Arndt

Previous coverage:

Ann Arbor Public Schools parents are being asked to weigh-in on whether the district should change high school start times.


Some research shows teens are naturally night owls. Ann Arbor Public Schools launched a parent survey about the possibility of pushing back high school start times.

Daniel Brenner |

Ann Arbor Communications Director Liz Margolis sent an email to parents across the district at about 4 p.m. Wednesday with a link to a survey. The survey asks parents to consider whether a start-time adjustment of 15 to 20 minutes later would negatively affect them.

The email from the district states a change in start times at the high schools also would affect the start and end times at the elementary and middle schools.

"We encourage all parents to share their viewpoint on this potential change," Margolis wrote.

The survey will be available for parents' feedback until Tuesday.

A multi-faceted committee of district employees and community members was established in the fall to research high school start times, the benefits and drawbacks and to explore the possibility of changing the secondary start time in Ann Arbor.

In December, administrators presented an initial report from the committee to the Board of Education that revealed committee members did not find any compelling evidence in favor of pushing back the school day for Ann Arbor teens.

The committee was charged with analyzing how a later start time could affect transportation, athletic schedules and childcare arrangements. It was the committee's recommendation to launch a parent survey.

Some national studies have found that teenagers are predisposed to sleeping between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. because of how and when teens produce melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical that, according to studies, make teens naturally night owls.

But there are conflicting studies, especially about how start times affect test scores, school officials said.

High school start times in Ann Arbor currently are around 7:40 a.m.

At the December board meeting, trustees gave the administration the OK to proceed with a parent survey. But largely, board members expressed they did not want to spend too much time on the topic right now, especially if the benefits of a later start time were not overwhelming, they said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Jen Eyer

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

I wonder if they've given consideration to moving all start times later, and then swapping elementary and high school start times. So elementary would start at 8 or 8:15, and high school would start at 9 or 9:15. Scientific studies tell us that young children generally wake up earlier, while high schoolers perform better if they start later. As a mother of two elementary students, I can attest to that! Most young children I know naturally wake up between 6 and 7am. Moving the start time for them even later just means more time they have to wait to go to school. Whereas high schoolers might really benefit from that extra hour or so.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

"The survey asks parents to consider whether a start-time adjustment of 15 to 20 minutes later would negatively affect them." No idea why they would ask a question like this. They are never going to find a schedule that satisfies all parents, so why ask? Put together a reasonable schedule with high schools starting at 8 am, middle schools starting at 8:30 and elementary schools starting at 9 pm, pretty close to what it is now for elementary. End of story.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Madison, Wisconsin (a place not unlike Ann Arbor) changed their high school start times recently. They have 5 public high schools that start classes between 8:12-8:25 pm, and classes end around 3:30. This was in response to data re: teenage sleeping patterns (as noted in the column). Here is the link to the school schedules:


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 10:25 a.m.

It's funny because when I was a kid, the complaint was that start times were too late. People wanted earlier start times because with after school activities they couldn't have dinner until later in the evening. Then, with homework, parents did not have the chance to see their kids. The "science" at the time said that natural biorhythms were for an afternoon siesta and that time in class did not facilitate quality learning. Plus, some argued, kids were already awake early because of families waking up and extracurricular activities that began before school. So, times have been pushed forward and this has exposed the universal constants of complaining and teenagers who do not like going to school. These two things will not change and the Board is smart enough to understand that. A poll is a fairly democratic way to get feedback and perhaps the pendulum will swing the other direction. I, however, am still holding out for the afternoon siesta.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 7:27 a.m.

Another pointless A2 news poll. What does anyone without children have todo with this topic and how are votes filtered? I am surprised top 5 wasn't mentioned in the the tag line.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

The article does not state and normal logic would mean that if school starts later then work starts later. Sounds like someone slept in and missed class on basic arithmetic. I don't have kids in school anymore so I am going to leave this one to the affected parents.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

A, a little thing called how our taxes are spent. I agree that perhaps voters who do not have children should not be concerned with school start times, but SusanRk seems to think that the schools should take taxpayer's money and these taxpayers should have no say in how those hard earned dollars are spent? Ever hear of private schools?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:39 a.m.

No matter what the school do you can not make every parent happy. I would like to see schools start a bit later, but also stay a LOT later. I also think schooling should be year round. And to anybody who claims "family vacations" I say, WORK AROUND IT. People do it everyday with their work schedules. My job doesnt give me summers off. It is also better use of the facilities and could actually fit more students in a school without increasing class sizes

Stephen Landes

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4 a.m.

Both of my children much preferred the later starting times the few times it was tried. They felt better about themselves and their work, slept better, and were happier. I would keep elementary and middle school start times as they are now and move high school start to after elementary and middle school. This would create two opportunities: a later start time for high schoolers (with better sleep and a more productive day) and older students at home to help see their younger siblings off to school in families where parents may have to leave very early for work.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

The start times is only half of it--it's when the school buses pick up. 11 year olds should not have to get on a bus at 7 a.m. when it's pitch black out. The sun usually rises not long after 7 so an extra 15 min will help. Most middle schoolers go to bed around 10 or so and are not getting enough sleep. So we end up driving our child across town, adding to the traffic and congestion, as do many parents judging by the line constantly parading in and out of Tappan at 8 a.m. And i understand the Pioneer bus picks up at some ungodly hour (6:20? 6:30?) even though the school is only a few miles away. Yes, a slightly later time is logical and far more civil.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

My high schooler, who "suggests" nearly every day that school should start later, laughed out loud when I told her about the proposed 15-20 minute delay. Why bother - we both asked. It's not enough to make a difference, other then impact the schedule I've spent three years making. Even the survey itself was a joke.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:08 a.m.

I remember when I was a student at Huron and classes started at 7:40, I hated it but no one listened to my opinion on it because as a student, my opinion obviously meant nothing. Now as an adult in my late twenties since I have a new perspective... it still seems ludicrous to start school that early for those kids.

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

When I was in high school, our start time was 8:40 AM, or perhaps 8:30. Our school day ended at 3:15 as it did for all grades except for 1-3, which were earlier. Kindergarten was divided into two periods for two different sets of kids. Starting high school at 7:30 or earlier is horrible. Once I became a teenager, I wanted to sleep in the mornings. Why did Ann Arbor Schools ever change? for the benefit of teachers? Buses?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:51 a.m.

One other idea that I had: Huron had (and I assume still has) an optional 7th hour class from about 2:30-3:30. I advocated moving this to being an optional 1st hour. That way after school activities, which currently are not allowed to start until after 3:30, are not affected.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:48 a.m.

In my public speaking ("Speech") class at Huron in 2005 I gave my persuasive speech about this exact issue. I advocated switching the elementary and high school start times. At the time, I had found plenty of scholarly evidence suggesting it was a good idea. Glad to see that I was seven years ahead of the school board! In four years of undergrad, two years of grad school, and multiple summer internships, I have never had to regularly wake up as early as I did in my years at Huron. I don't miss the waking up early one bit!!


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:25 a.m.

I hope that the school district did not pay very much for this survey; pretty poor. It is apparently for high school start times, yet jumbles issues for all grades into 'problems.' I'd love to see the schools reverse the Elem & High School start times, but nothing is going to happen.

Dog Guy

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:14 a.m.

Students come to school because that's where their friends are. Eliminate school starting times for two weeks and see when they arrive. Then set starting times accordingly.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:02 a.m.

Much too logical. Your approach would indicate that the school system is for the children when we know it is designed for administrators, teachers, and union officers.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:02 a.m.

Do you just feel obligated to post on every story on this site? Congrats on upping the noise level of your little corner of the universe.

Fresh Start

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Why not close the schools and just have the kids learn online at home. They can participate in online polls, socialize via Facebook and no one has to wake up early, be late for work or worry about their kids getting abducted.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.

Yes please change the start times to later! I am a student at Skyline High and I didn't like that the start time changed from 7:45 to 7:30. Many of the kids in my classes are falling asleep during 1 and 2nd hour of class. It is not because they have electronics in their rooms with them, it is because they are up late doing homework and then have to get up at 6 am to get ready and go to school by 7:30. I don't think that the elementary schools times should get pushed back...they start late enough as it is. Maybe if the high school and elementary schools times were switched, then that would be a better idea. I really hope Skyline starts 15-20 minutes later than it does right now. I took the survey, hopefully the times will get changed.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

Lol @ "childcare arraignments". Written by a journalist covering K-12 education, no less!

Paula Gardner

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

@Silly Sally - I'm the one who read this before we posted, so I'm sharing in the cringe over 'arraignment. '

Silly Sally

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

May I suggest using MS Word spell check? What happened to others proofreading?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

Eek, yeah, sorry about that! And my "thanks" to the two commenters who pointed out the typo!


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

I appreciate the survey and hope that everyone will take it. I was able to add some comments in the other section on one of the questions. Hopefully they will be able to see my comments. I think starting all schools later will negatively impact many parents work schedules. Why not start the elementary earlier,keep middle school the same and have high school start later? In my case it would be easier to send my elementary child off early and then I could leave for work. My middle/high school student can be alone by themselves and (hopefully) get to the bus on time without a lot of supervision. Although,I know someone will always have an issue with the change.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:42 a.m.

I definitely am surprised at the late start time for the elementary students. My kids are up much earlier. I would also be in favor of switching the earlier times to the younger kids and the later times to the older kids.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

Please correct childcare 'arraignments' to 'arrangements.'

Paula Gardner

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

Done! Thank you.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

I filled out the survey. I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make to HS kids to get 15 minutes more sleep. An hour maybe, but 15 minutes? Really? Skyline moved 15 minutes earlier this year and it didn't seem to phase my son at all. And the elementary kids already get out fairly late as it is.


Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

The survey doesn't even work properly. There are questions that require multiple answers yet you can only select one. It scares me that my child is being taught by educators that can't even put a working survey together.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:21 a.m.

I highly doubt your child is being taught by the people who put the survey together. I'd be surprised if teachers had any input into the construction of the survey.

West Side Mom

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

Sorry Liz, but I don't think your response was responsive to the issue raised by Lola. There was a question on the survey that required you to rank a series of statements on a scale of 1 to 5. The survey would only allow you to put in one response to one question. If you tried to answer another question in the series, it would delete the other response.

Liz Margolis

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

The survey has been updated to allow for non-responses on two of the questions. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Linda Peck

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

I agree with CLS, a little creativity and questioning is a good thing, before making blanket changes to the start times.


Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

Is AAPS so uncreative that the only solution it can come up with is to start all 3 levels of schools later and end them all later? They are paying mere lip-service to all of the parents complaining about the early high school start time by offering a single solution that they know will tick off the parents of the elementary school kids, pitting one group of parents against the other. I don't really care about the start times, but I find it outrageous that AAPS is offering a disingenuous solution to those parents for whom this is a real concern. No effort at all.