FM School District survey explores changing start times for students

MANLIUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Fayetteville-Manlius School District officials want to know what the community thinks of a potential change in school start times.

A district survey went live Tuesday for parents, guardians, district staff and community members to weigh in on how changing school start times could impact a number of factors, including parents’ and students’ work schedules, before- or after-school childcare, after-school activities, and athletics.

They plan to continue gathering feedback through that online survey for a few weeks.

It’s the latest step in the District’s investigation of changing school start times.

At F-M, the high school starts at 7:45 a.m. The two middle schools each start at 8 a.m. and the three elementary schools begin at 8:45 a.m., in part because the F-M bus fleet is dispatched in three distinct intervals (high school, middle school and elementary runs).

About two years ago, the high school’s site-based team of teachers, faculty, and administration brought the topic forward to the Board of Education.

The F-M Board of Education then tasked Daniel Lewin of the Children’s National Health System, which specializes in a range of pediatric services and research, including sleep as it relates to school start times, and his colleagues to explore the potential benefits and challenges associated with changing school start times.

In April, Lewin and his colleagues conducted 34 interviews and group discussions with a number of stakeholders—including students, staff, parents and board members— to inform their study and identify common themes and issues.

Now the district is looking for community feedback.

When you click on the provided link to begin the survey, community members will be asked to enter an email address to which a survey link will be sent.

In some cases, depending upon the server housing the email account, the automatic email will arrive within minutes of the request; for others, it could take up to 10-15 minutes.

The emailed survey link will not expire so the survey can be taken at a later date from when the request is made.

Individual responses are private, and the consultants will not share survey respondents’ names with the district.

The consultants plan to use the survey feedback to shape and guide community forums tentatively planned to be held in early winter.

The group expects to present a final report in the spring to the board, which will then review and discuss the findings before making a decision on whether to move forward with modifying school start times.

Any changes would not go into effect until at least the 2021-22 school year.

Many school districts across the country are investigating changing their school start times so that high school students start classes later.

The Webster School District in Rochester just made a switch after four years of studying and planning how to implement that change for this school year.

Middle and high schoolers will have the chance to sleep in an extra hour longer with school now beginning at 8:45 a.m. and ending at 3:15 p.m.

Younger students will be going to class around an hour earlier, beginning at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 2:20 p.m.

The East Syracuse Minoa School District has been operating on the following schedule for several years now.

  • High School start time 8:50 a.m. and dismissal 3:20 p.m.
  • Middle Schools start time 8:10 a.m. and dismissal 2:45 p.m.
  • Elementary Schools start time 8:00 a.m. and dismissal 2:00 p.m.

Here is a brief timeline of the Liverpool School District which studied the issue for about three years ultimately deciding to make no changes to start and dismissal times at the high school and middle schools.

  • Approximately, four years ago (Fall 2015) – the Liverpool CSD Board of Education asked that a topic (Modified School Start Time) be investigated/evaluated.
  • Superintendent Mark Potter posed the topic to a team of teachers who were (at the time) currently working on their administrative degree – take this topic on as a project for their college program.
  • Following the conclusion of the program (and ultimately their presentation of the data and detail in the Spring 2016), the District decided to conduct an internal evaluation to study the topic for possible implementation (this occurred in the Fall 2016).
  • They spent a significant amount of time discussing the benefits, obstacles, issues and what impact this could possibly have on various student groups (elementary, middle school and high school).
  • Following the committee’s collaborative conversations, a presentation was made to the Board of Education (in the Spring 2017) and whether to continue to investigate the possibilities of implementing a ‘later start time for the high school’.
  • In the Fall of 2017, the Board of Education decided to put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) seeking an independent consultant to assist in the evaluation of possibly making a significant change in start time for our high school students.  One of the important tenets was . . . any change at all must not result in a negative or detriment to any other age group or student level and the change must not have a negative impact on the operating budget for the district.
  • In the Spring of 2018, the District awarded the RFP to Daniel Lewin (Washington, D.C.) to conduct a survey (May 2018) of students, staff and community members looking for respondents reacting to a series of questions regarding the implementation and impact of modifying the current school start and ending times at all of the various school buildings and levels.
  • In September 2018 – Dr. Lewin presented his data to the Board of Education – with mixed results.
  • The Board took the results and made a determination that given the constraints (specifically with regard to busing and our 3-tiered pickup and drop-off system) and additionally with regard to the financial side of things specifically needing to add a significant number of buses and drivers – they were not interested (or supportive) in continuing to study or implement any changes associated with start or dismissal times.
  • There was clear acknowledgment that this was not in opposition to the research or understanding our high schoolers need more sleep or later sleep — but rather implementation obstacles.

Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence, meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11 p.m., according to the National Sleep Foundation. And teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night to function their best, according to the foundation.

In 2016, the American Medical Association issued a policy statement that middle and high school start times begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Sunday that pushes school start times later. Under the new law, middle schools will start classes at 8 a.m. or after, while high schools will start classes at 8:30 a.m. or after.

Optional early classes will still be allowed. The law applies to public and charter schools, though rural school districts are exempt. The new start times go into effect by July 1, 2022, or when a school’s collective bargaining agreement with its employees expires, whichever is later.