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New proposed hours altered for MSD of Washington Township elementary, high schools

Posted at 8:35 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 20:38:22-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Metropolitan School District of Washington Township officials on Wednesday announced that it has altered a proposed schedule change for its high school and elementary schools during the 2022-2023 school year.

The decision came after continued community feedback and discussion on the matter.

The board is scheduled to vote on the measure at its next meeting on March 23.

Several members of the community — mostly parents — spoke either for or against the measure.

The new proposed schedules will be as follows:

Elementary schools: 7:50 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.
The previously proposed schedule would have gone from 7:40 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. This most recent change means elementary schools would not lose any time from the school day if the new schedule is approved.

North Central High School: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The previous proposal was from 8:30 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. Class times would change to 40 minutes per period under the new proposal.

Middle schools: 9:20 a.m. to 4:20 p.m.
There are no changes to the current schedule.

Hilltop Developmental Preschool:
There are no changes to the current schedule.

Also under the changes, the average pick-up time for elementary students will be 7 a.m. The current average time is 7:40 a.m.

Those in favor expressed confidence in the measure's benefits, while those against it cited concerns on the potential impact on the youngest students.

The father of a district student told the board he felt the measure was not in any student's best interests and he would like for young children to start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Shortly afterward, a mother of several children cited three main concerns: access to readily available childcare, elementary students' sleeping schedules and potential loss of teachers.

She cited childcare providers' struggles with staffing and waitlists backups, which she felt could force district teachers with young children of their own to leave. She also said she felt elementary school kids would have to sacrifice time for extracurricular activities for the high schoolers' benefit.

Another mother shared similar thoughts, saying she was worried by what she described as "little to no" research on the impacts of early start times on elementary school students.

Two spoke in favor of the change.

A high school junior said having more time to sleep in the morning would help her feel more energized and improve her performance in the classroom.

A mother who supported the measure said she trusted it would increase test scores, reduce dropout rates and benefit high schoolers. That person emphasized that the change could help graduate more kids — especially those who are classified as being at-risk.

The new changes have been under consideration for nearly a year. The district has said it will have many benefits for students.

The district said research over the last 30 years shows adolescent students perform better if the school day starts later in the day and they tend to be more alert, focus better and make better decisions if their academic day starts around 8:30 a.m.

Fewer automobile crashes involving teenage drivers also decrease if they are on the road later in the day, according to the district.

Below are some of the main reasons the district said the newly recommended hours align with research.

  • School start times before 8:30 a.m. were considered a key modifiable contributor for insufficient sleep and circadian rhythms (physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle).
  • High schools in districts with a later start time have less depression and less of a need for medication,
  • Attendance improves, tardiness decreases and more students graduate.
  • Economists with Brookings Institute estimate by shifting high and middle school start times will increase academic achievement on average and with effects for disadvantaged students about twice as large as advantaged students. This could also be done with little to no cost to schools. These advantages are equivalent to two additional months of schools.
  • A large-scale study in 2021 found an earlier start time had minimal impact on student sleep and daytime sleepiness for elementary school students. The student also found significant benefits of delaying middle and high school start times.

The seven early release days on the current calendar have been removed from the recommended calendar.