Sunday, December 5, 2021
Dec. 5, 2021

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Evergreen to change high school start times in 2016-17

Change will let students sleep later

By , Columbian Staff Writer

Starting next school year, high-schoolers at Evergreen Public Schools will have a little more time in the mornings before hitting their snooze buttons.

The district announced on Monday that Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View and Union high schools will run from 8:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning in the fall. Classes at the schools currently start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m. Henrietta Lacks Health and BioScience High School, which starts at 7:30 a.m., will start at 8:05 a.m. Legacy High School, which starts at 8 a.m., and the Clark County Skills Center, which starts at 7:50 a.m., won’t change start times.

The new start times also mean some changes for the district’s elementary and middle schools.

Burnt Bridge Creek, Burton, Crestline, Image and Marrion elementary schools will start at 8:40 a.m., 10 minutes later than the schools do now. Columbia Valley, Ellsworth, Endeavour, Fircrest, Fisher’s Landing, Harmony, Hearthwood, Illahee, Mill Plain, Orchards, Pioneer, Riverview, Sifton, Silver Star, Sunset and York elementary schools will start at 9:20 a.m., five minutes earlier than they do now.

Cascade, Covington, Frontier, Pacific, Shahala and Wy’east middle schools will start at 8:05 a.m., which is 10 minutes earlier.

The switch was made in part because of research from a 2014 study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, which concluded that later start times for high school students can result in improved academic performance, reduction in car crashes, less absenteeism and tardiness, and higher test scores on national achievement tests.

“The idea first surfaced several years ago with Evergreen,” said John Steach, deputy superintendent at the district. “When it was looked at that time, our transportation was on a two-tier system, so we had two groups of start times and it would’ve taken several millions of dollars to switch over. Now, we have a three-tier system of transportation.”

To make the switch, Steach said, the district will have to purchase approximately 10 buses, which could cost the district around $120,000 per bus, or a roughly $1.2 million cost upfront. After that, he said, the change in ongoing transportation services is “pretty insignificant.”

The study looked at more than 9,000 students at public high schools in Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming during a three-year period, and found that 60 percent of students who start school at 8:35 a.m. or later get at least eight hours of sleep. Meanwhile, 44 percent of students who start school between 7:35 and 8 a.m. sleep at least eight hours a night, the study states.

Steach said that the later start time could help the district improve its 83.4 percent on-time graduation rate.

“We’re trying to reach every student,” he said. “This is one more way to reach that last 16.6 percent that we have struggled to get across that graduation threshold.”

Steach said the district will see how the change goes and how the transportation works out, and he hopes the middle school start times can be moved back in the future, as well. Because the elementary schools start latest, he said, the district didn’t want to shift them too much and make the district’s youngest students walk to school or their bus stop before the sun comes up or leave school once it’s already dark.

With 27,000 students, Evergreen Public Schools is the largest school district in Clark County and the state’s fifth-largest school district.

In Vancouver Public Schools, the county’s second-largest school district, spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said pushing back high school start times is something that’s been considered in the past.

“We know the research,” she said. “There hasn’t been any discussion recently to change our start time.”

She added that the district hasn’t made the change partly because of cost and partly because of transportation issues. She also said many high school students participate in athletics or have after-school jobs to go to, and pushing back school might affect those activities.

The high school that starts the latest in Clark County is Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, which starts at 9:35 a.m. Hockinson High School starts at 9 a.m.

Columbian Staff Writer