District To Revamp School Start Times in 2021-2022
Based on a growing body of research on adolescent sleep patterns and the impacts to student achievement, Derry Township School District intends to revamp its school day starting with the 2021-2022 school year. While the district will be using the next two school years to fully develop the specifics, the intent is to analyze the research to better match the sleep patterns of our students.
The district initially looked at the concept of changing school start times in 2010-11. While the ad hoc committee studying the subject at the time did not advocate for a change at the time, members did recommend revisiting the subject. In a presentation to the DTSD Board of School Directors on September 9, District Superintendent Joe McFarland pointed to increased scientific research related to adolescent sleep. He also cited a growing number of school districts, including in Pennsylvania that have made school start time changes in recent years. He said DTSD plans to pull on the experiences of districts like State College, Radnor and Phoenixville as resources, much like the district did when preparing for a successful move to a full-day kindergarten program.
“Our plan will be our own in the sense that we will create an approach that is best for us. But we also know that there is much to be gained by working with educators who have already been down this path,” McFarland said. “Modern brain research is showing adolescents tend to perform better when their academic day starts later and, conversely, younger students are more receptive to learning in the morning. So, our goal is to take all this information and come up with a schedule that works best for our district.”
Following the model used with the kindergarten program switch, the district will form a steering committee that will include administrators, board members, teachers and interested community members. Likewise, the district will provide regular updates on the planning process to the school board and for constituents. The district is creating a special section on its homepage with links to background information.
Beside arriving at specific start times for elementary and secondary schools, the steering committee will look at impacts to matters like transportation, athletics & extra-curricular activities, food service and other district operations.
“Generally speaking, we know where we want to go, but we don’t yet know the best path forward,” McFarland said. “That’s why we are giving ourselves time to be thorough, explore unintended consequences and set up our students and families for success.”
Based on a growing body of research on adolescent sleep patterns and the impacts to student achievement and social/emotional well-being, Derry Township School District intends to revamp its school day starting with the 2021-2022 school year.
The district has formed a steering committee consisting of school board members, administrators, teachers, parents and childcare provider to help guide the review of options for new school start/stop times.
The steering committee will give specific attention to potential impacts in the areas of transportation, extra-curricular activities and before/after-school childcare.
The steering committee’s recommendations will be presented to the DTSD Board of School Directors for consideration in the spring/summer of 2020. Once the board has approved a new daily bell schedule, the 2020-2021 school year will be sent determining the class schedule for each building.
While the steering committee is not yet set to make a recommendation, some general parameters have emerged for formulating a new bell schedule. These include:
• The elementary day will end no later than 4PM
• The secondary (HS/MS) day will begin no earlier than 8:10AM
• There will be no overall loss of daily core instructional time from the current schedule.
• Any new schedule must meet the state minimum annual requirements of 900 hours for elementary and 990 for secondary
Just as the current school schedule is not a perfect fit for every family‘s unique circumstances, the new school schedule will also not be the ideal solution in every circumstance. Recognizing there is no one single plan that will meet all needs for everybody, the intent is to do the greatest good for the most students possible.