Evergreen Public Schools is shifting around school bell schedules next year, citing research that shows later start times for older children have positive health results.
According to a document posted on the district website, middle schools will see the biggest change, with starting bell times moving from 8 to 9:35 a.m. across the district. End times will shift accordingly from 2:30 to 4:05 p.m.
High schools will see minor changes, with start times pushed from 8:40 to 8:45 a.m. and end times from 3:10 to 3:15 p.m. Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, however, will see its schedule pushed slightly earlier, with its start time moving from 8 to 7:55 a.m. and its end time from 2:30 to 2:25 p.m.
On the flip side, elementary schools will have start times pushed up earlier. Elementary schools are currently split into two scheduling categories: early and late, with the majority starting later. A letter sent home to families on March 3 clarifies which schools in the district will start early and which will start late.
“Early” schools in the district will change start times from 8:40 to 7:50 a.m. and end times from 3:10 to 2:25 p.m. “Late” schools will see start times change from 9:20 to 8:40 a.m. and end times change from 3:50 to 3:15 p.m.
Why the time shift?
Evergreen created a document online to share research behind the decision, which it said is centered around countering chronic sleep loss for older students. Starting times of 8:30 a.m. or later, the district said, lead to lower rates of depression, a reduction in car crashes, lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness, and higher test scores among older students.
The district’s research can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yseb2akz.
Some parents, however, say the middle school start times challenge their ability to get students to school while on their way to work.
In an email exchange regarding the changes shared with The Columbian between board president Julie Bocanegra and a parent in the district, Bocanegra said the district “did not get a lot of feedback from our community when making this decision.”
“I’ve yet to talk to a parent who was surveyed about the time change, I have talked to 30 different families who weren’t either,” wrote Daniel Bird, a parent in the district with two sons in middle school and another two in high school. “Maybe, we’re just talking to the wrong people.”
In the same email, Bocanegra said she understood that the decision presents difficulties for families, and the district sought to communicate the changes as soon as possible so families could adapt to the new schedules.
In the coming weeks, Evergreen will further clarify which elementary schools will have earlier and later start times. Parents and other community members are also expected to share thoughts on the changes at Tuesday’s board meeting.