Daily schedules for Noblesville Schools’ students are going to change, but the adjusted school hours will not begin in the fall.
Supt. Dr. Libbie Conner said the district’s start times for all schools will be changed beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The start of school for high school and the middle school students is tentatively scheduled to be 8:45 a.m. from the current time of 7:35 a.m., and elementary schools are tentatively scheduled to start at 8 a.m. as opposed to 8:40 a.m. Final, confirmed start times for the schools will be announced in early 2015.
“Every individual family is very individual and very unique and whatever time school starts it’s not going to please everyone,” Conner said. “When we look at making decisions as important as this, we really look and focus on what is the very best thing for our students.”
The change is being implemented to address the energy level and alertness of many students during their morning classes.
“Changing school start times, while a challenging adjustment for some families in the short term, will help forward our objective of doing what’s best academically for our students in the long run,” Conner said.
Conner said the district has been extensively studying the issue of start times for approximately two years through a calendar committee made up of administrators, teachers and parents. The start times planned are based on the committee’s recommendation.
The committee’s research concluded that there are several significant positive outcomes associated with adolescent students starting school later in the morning including better attendance, an increase in student achievement, and fewer cases of depression and student car accidents. Conner said the committee research indicated no negative academic outcomes for younger students starting their school day earlier.
“At the end of the day the research is very compelling in terms of students and their sleep patterns and achievement,” she said.
The district garnered public input through a forum on May 5, social media commentary and an online survey with approximately 2,500 respondents. Conner said the survey indicated that the majority of respondents were not opposed to a change in start times, with 70 percent stating they seeing no negative impact from the proposed change for their high school/middle school student(s) and 56 percent of respondents seeing no negative impact from the proposed change for their elementary student(s).
“Some of the common themes from parents were not really allowing enough time for consideration and implementation to think about changing school start times this next fall, concern with elementary students needing to get up earlier, impact on current childcare arrangements, afterschool activities, family schedules, kids not learning to adapt to early morning expectations. Those were the themes of concerns from parents,” Conner said.
The change in start times was originally being considered for implementation in the 20142015 School year, but was delayed to 20152016 to provide families and school administration more time to plan for and process the changes.
“There were some questions parents were asking that we really couldn’t answer yet and it’s because we haven’t done the analytical detail of what those daily schedules would be like. We haven’t really analyzed the detail on what the impact would be on afterschool activities,” Conner said.
Conner said the district also has to work with the teacher’s forum on changing the length of teacher work days.
“That takes some time to work through,” she said.
Noblesville Schools will have the chance to evaluate the implications of changing start times during next school year and a decision is expected in early 2015.
“I think this is definitely the right decision at this point to delay implementation until we can study it a little bit more,” School Board Vice President Donna Clark said.
Jane Barr, school board member and educator, said the committee came up with the best possible times.
“I firmly believe it will benefit the elementary students to start earlier. Most are in daycare by 6:30 in the morning. By 9 a.m. they are tired. This gets them energized to focus much better … For high school students it’s a great thing for them to start later,” she said. “Having elementary start at 7:30 a.m. would be tough on some families. Making it 8 a.m. mean parents can get students on the bus and then they can go to work. It is longer afterschool care but there are other low cost options like the Boys & Girls Club or AYS.”
The proposed changes of school start times for the 2015-16 school year include:
• High school and middle school students would start at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:35 p.m.
• Elementary school students would start at 8 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m.
• Current school hours are 7:35 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for grades 6 to 12 and 8:40 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. for elementary students.