The Cherry Creek School District Board of Education unanimously approved changes to school start times during its regular meeting on March 13, citing the latest research and best practices regarding sleep patterns in adolescents.
The vote followed many months' worth of public forums, careful research and community dialogue across the district regarding the changes, which will kick off at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Starting in the fall, elementary schools will start at 8 a.m. and release at 2:45 p.m., high schools will start at 8:20 a.m. and release at 3:30 p.m. and middle schools will start at 8:50 a.m. and release at 3:45 p.m. These changes were carefully designed to offer adolescents and teens a later start, and specifically to provide them with added sleep that research has shown to be so critical to development and learning.
That research played a large part in the decision of the CCSD board members, who spoke to the ties between education and physical well-being before their vote on Monday.
"I think that the sleep research is very clear," Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Harry Bull said. "Adolescents stay up later. Subsequently, the longer they can sleep in the morning, the closer they are to the recommended amount of sleep for adolescents."
The changes came after exhaustive communication with the community as part of the district's wider Cherry Creek 2021 initiative to review structures and practices at all levels. With the goal of creating an ideal schedule for student learning, district officials held meetings, conducted online polls and garnered feedback in many forms. In the end, surveys showed overwhelming support for the measure. The district received more than 25,000 responses during the course of its outreach, and about 73 percent of those responses reflected support for the proposed changes. What's more, district officials responded to specific suggestions and critiques after collecting the initial survey results, collaborating with stakeholders throughout the process.
"The amount of feedback to our survey, attendance at meetings and online surveys has truly been unprecedented," Cherry Creek School Board member Karen Fisher said. "I applaud our community."
The changes align with the latest research and data from medical professionals regarding the importance of sleep for middle- and high-school aged children. Lisa Meltzer, associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health, spoke during the Board of Education's meeting in February and pointed to the latest research on the topic, maintaining that a proper amount of sleep is "essential for healthy daytime functions and for well-being" when it comes to adolescents and teens.
During a research process that lasted more than a year, the district's priority was developing a schedule that best fit the needs of the entire community. Though no single timetable can fit every individual's personal preference, the option approved by the board ultimately garnered the most support from all corners of the Cherry Creek School District.
"Things do change, and the routines change," board member Janice McDonald said. "Even now, my routine will change as a grandparent. But we always manage to make it work. As the change takes place, I believe it is for the greater good of our students. We will do things that are necessary to make the changes."
"We recognize all positions, and honestly, I've lost sleep. I've read each and every comment … I believe that this reasonable and sound decision will be the best choice moving forward."
~ Board member Dave Willman