Later school-day start for teens in Roaring Fork Schools still under consideration
An hour-later start for high school students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, while popular with parent and student participants in a recent Roaring Fork School District survey, is something that will require some more research before implementing.
The survey meant to gather input on a school-year calendar for 2018-19, and beyond, indicated support from the public for high school students to start school at 9 a.m., instead of 8. However, district staff was opposed to the idea, according to a letter sent to parents earlier this month explaining the calendar process.
“In response to this feedback, the [calendar] planning committee is conducting additional outreach and research to determine whether or not the district should adopt a late start for high school students,” the letter stated.
Education professionals in general have pointed to research suggesting teenagers, for biological reasons, are better able to learn if given a little extra time to get rolling in the morning.
It’s an idea that has gained traction in some schools across the country, but which does present some scheduling problems for teachers and staff and can cut into after-school extracurricular activities.
For now, Roaring Fork Schools will work to finalize the school calendar for next year, while continuing to research the topic and determine if it’s something that could be incorporated later.
“If this research continues past mid-spring, a decision to implement would have to be postponed for another year,” the parent letter states. “We feel that thorough investigation of this topic will allow us to settle the matter rather than continually revisiting it from year to year.”
As proposed, the 2018-19 school year would start on Aug. 20 this year and end on June 5, 2019, with high school graduations the weekend of June 1.
It includes the return of a fall break for students and teachers on Oct. 18-19; a full week off around Thanksgiving from Nov. 19-23; winter break from Dec. 24 to Jan. 7; and an extra two days of spring break, extending from March 21-29.
The district has been collecting comments on a variety of school calendar details since before the holiday break. A calendar planning group will review the comments this week, and a formal calendar proposal is expected before the school board in March.
In addition to weighing in on the high school start time question, survey participants expressed a strong opposition to an extended school year.
“Several local seasonal employers provided feedback that extending the school year beyond what is typical for Colorado school districts would be a burden because of these businesses’ reliance on staff and student summer employees,” according to the parent letter.
“We also heard from our staff and parents that reducing summer break would negatively impact the summer employment opportunities for both staff and students.”
The mid-August start is a bit earlier than usual, and somewhat earlier than this year when school didn’t start until after Labor Day due to the Grand Avenue Bridge construction impacts.
Starting the school year on Aug. 20 will allow for the first semester to end before winter break, where now there’s an awkward couple of weeks in January before the semester ends.
“A mid-August start provides additional instructional days prior to student testing, especially Advanced Placement tests for which students can earn college credit,” the district also noted in its parent letter.
It’s better aligned with the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) schedule, and with other school districts across the state, the letter points out.
The proposed calendar also includes additional break days between academic quarters, which 75 percent of certified teaching staff in the district said they supported.
The public will have more chances to comment on the proposed calendar at Roaring Fork school board meetings in March and April, with final approval coming in late April.