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Request for Public Comments Regarding Proposed Bell Schedule Changes for 2019-2020 School Year
Rob Miller
Thursday, January 10, 2019

Spartan Families,

Over the past year, the district has been engaged in a deliberate evaluation of various bell schedule proposals for students in Bixby Public Schools. This comprehensive review has involved the Board of Education, district and site administrators, teachers, representatives from Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO’s), community members, and students.

This process was initiated in an effort to address several scheduling and logistical challenges associated with our current bell schedules and transportation services, as well as to review options for providing improved programming and additional course offerings at the high school. While this review has centered primarily around potential changes to the secondary bell schedule, it has become evident that any adjustments we make will likely affect our elementary school schedules.

An element of our discussion has focused on the suggestion to have secondary students move to later school schedule while simultaneously moving elementary school days to an earlier schedule. This practice is becoming quite common across the nation and has previously been adopted by numerous large districts in the Tulsa area, including Tulsa Public Schools, Jenks, Union, Sand Springs, and Glenpool.

If this plan were to be adopted by the Board of Education, secondary sites (grades 7-12) in BPS would move from the current six-period schedule to a seven-period day with a start time of 8:40 a.m. and an end time of 3:47 p.m. The length of the school day would remain the same as it is now. The Friday early release days would end at 3:01 p.m. No secondary programming would be permitted prior to 7:45 a.m. each day. 

At the elementary and intermediate schools, the start times would move to 7:40 a.m with a dismissal time of 2:45 p.m. Friday early dismissal would be at 1:45 p.m.

The concept of a later bell schedule for secondary schools is predicated on significant research demonstrating the importance of adequate sleep for adolescents.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Medical Association all recommend that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to allow students to get sufficient sleep.

  • The CDC research states that most middle and high school students need about 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night. A large majority of American high school students did not meet the CDC’s recommendation according to a study of four nationally representative successive samples of American high school students from 2007-2013. Further, a National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of U.S. high school students were getting less than the recommended amount of sleep.

  • The CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2017 showed that 75.4% of U.S. high school students get fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, and 43% get 6 or fewer hours.

  • More than 4 in 5 (82.3%) of U.S. middle, high, and combined public schools require students to attend class at times earlier than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Medical Association. (Wheaton, CDC, August 7, 2015)

  • More than half of licensed teens (56%) admit to having driven when feeling too tired to drive their best, and nearly one in 10 teens report that they have completely fallen asleep at the wheel.  (SADD and Liberty Mutual Study, 2016)

  • Insufficient sleep in teens is associated with obesity, migraines, and immune system disruption and with health risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, physical inactivity, depression, and suicidal tendencies

  • An estimated 27% of all drowsy-driving-related car crashes involve 16-19 year old drivers. (AAA Foundation, 2018).

  • A major, multi-state study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked later high school start times to significant decreases in teen substance abuse, depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks.

  • When schools have delayed the start of the school day, communities have seen reduced tardiness, less sleeping in class, and lower car crash rates, as well as improved attendance, graduation rates, and standardized test scores.

  • A report published by The Brookings Institution associated a significant increase in test scores with later middle and high school start times, with benefits roughly twice as great in disadvantaged students

While the research related to the benefits of moving to a later start time for secondary students is clear and substantial, we also recognize that making a district-wide change of this level would introduce significant implications, both positive and negative.  

On the positive side, a change would allow all high school teachers and students to be on the same bell schedule (this is currently not the case); would allow for a move to a seven-period day (allowing more student electives); would restrict high school programming to not earlier than 7:45 a.m. (promoting healthier sleep patterns); would facilitate a more timely transition back to the middle school for students attending classes at the high school during first period; would enable all elementary sites to be on the same bell schedule (due to availability of transportation); would reduce the need for before school child care; would allow more afternoon activities/play for elementary students due to earlier dismissal; would benefit some parents who have earlier work schedules; and would potentially reduce class sizes at the secondary level by adding additional sections (teachers moving from five to six sections).

Some potentially adverse implications to flipping the start times would include creating challenges for families who rely on older students to supervise their elementary children after school; increasing the need for after-school programs both at school and off-campus (additional cost for parents); causing elementary-age students to board buses as early at 6:45 a.m.; limiting non-school activities/employment opportunities for high school students due to a later dismissal time and scheduling of extracurricular activities; increasing the number of sections for teachers; shortening the instructional time per class by about nine minutes per period at the high school level; and disrupting the schedules and routines of parents, teachers, and staff who have become accustomed to the current school schedules.

I want to assure you that all of the above implications (and more) are being carefully considered throughout this process. There will be a thorough assessment of all advantages and disadvantages prior to making any final recommendation and/or decision.

While the Bixby Board of Education has been involved in this process, we are seeking additional input from you and other parents about this potential change. All suggestions and concerns will be reviewed and evaluated. The purpose of this request is to gain perspectives which may assist us in clearly identifying all potential implications involved in making this transition. As always, we will strive to balance the learning, health, and safety needs of students with the real impact(s) on the families and employees we serve.

You can provide public comments regarding this proposal between now and January 31, 2019. 

To submit your comment click HERE or copy and paste the following URL: https://goo.gl/forms/5JVNvlwPFPYS8fPG3

Additional links related to the topic of secondary start times are provided below:

Additional Resources:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/seattle-high-schools-later-start-time-improved-academic-performance/

http://www.startschoollater.net/wake-up-calls-fast-facts.html

https://www.brookings.edu/research/start-high-school-later-for-better-academic-outcomes/

https://aasm.org/review-suggests-that-teens-benefit-from-later-high-school-start-times-2/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2018/04/06/why-its-ridiculous-that-high-schools-start-so-early-in-the-morning/?utm_term=.39c6ab26c934

https://www.kappanonline.org/later-start-time-for-teens/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evidence-based-living/201808/the-evidence-kids-sleep-and-school-start-times

http://theconversation.com/sleepy-teenage-brains-need-school-to-start-later-in-the-morning-82484

https://choices.scholastic.com/issues/2018-19/090118/should-high-schools-start-later.html

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Let-Them-Sleep-AAP-Recommends-Delaying-Start-Times-of-Middle-and-High-Schools-to-Combat-Teen-Sleep-Deprivation.aspx

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/schools-starting-classes-students-sleep-good-sleep-important/story?id=59797120