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School Start Time Subcommittee



Watch the video: School Committee Meeting, Oct. 10, 2019
(Courtesy of Holliston Cable Access Television)
Watch the video: School Committee Meeting, Jan. 19, 2017
(Courtesy of Holliston Cable Access Television)

Over the past decade, the levels of stress and anxiety reported by Holliston High School and Middle School students have become a top concern. In 2015, the Superintendent’s Task Force on Student Stress was formed to take a close look at what could be done to better support the social-emotional health of our students. As part of that study, a survey indicated that most middle school students (55 percent) and the vast majority (74 percent) of High School students reported not getting enough sleep. Because sleep experts have shown that the natural sleep cycle of adolescents runs about two hours later than both adults and young children, there has been a push across the country to move start times later for older students. Armed with both research and first-hand accounts from students, the Task Force named a change in start times as one of its top recommendations when it finalized its report in 2016.


With the work of the Task Force complete, the recommendations were given to the School Committee for further action. The School Start Time Subcommittee, made up of three members of the School Committee, began its work by examining the wealth of research on the optimal sleep cycles of teens and on the specific recommendation to better align the start times of middle and high schools to that optimal sleep cycle. This work was driven by the overwhelming evidence that making that change would result in improvements in our students’ physical health and safety (reduced rates of motor vehicle crashes due to “drowsy driving” and increased levels of physical activity); mental health and behavior (reduced risk for anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, increased motivation and reduced vulnerability to stress); and academic and student performance (improvements in academic performance and school attendance and a decreased drop-out rate).


The Subcommittee learned through its research that re-aligning start times brought with it some significant challenges, particularly in the areas of scheduling after-school sports and activities and the impact that any change would have on school bus transportation, community traffic patterns, before- and after-school child care and family routines. Most of these impacts are unique to the community and required considerable study and analysis before determining the best course of action for Holliston.


Phase I - Fall 2016 through Fall 2018


Recognizing that there are a number of factors that are unique to Holliston and unalterable (the geography and traffic patterns of our community, and the location and grade-structure of our schools) , the Subcommittee developed three scenarios that would account for those factors and, at the same time, provide for a moderate adjustment to our middle and high school start times. The cost factors (related to transportation) were also reviewed. School administrators were interviewed and shared their feedback on the scenarios under consideration.


In May 2017, the Subcommittee issued a comprehensive survey to students, staff, and parents and compiled and analyzed those survey results over the course of fall 2017. On November 28, 2017, the Subcommittee presented a summary of their work to the Holliston School Committee and the School Committee asked the Subcommittee to continue to explore this topic with an understanding that any changes, if any, to school start times resulting from this study would be implemented NO EARLIER than the 2019-2020 school year. During the Winter and Spring of 2018, the Subcommittee worked with the Administration in an effort to develop a plan to implement the preferred scenario.  In the Fall of 2018, the Subcommittee reported that the preferred scenario (which called for Miller and Placentino Schools to open at the same time) was not feasible, as the elementary campus was physically unable to safely accommodate the car and bus traffic that a simultaneous dismissal would generate. In addition, the parent/community survey results indicated that parents strongly opposed any diversion of funds from programs or an increase in fees to accommodate any changes in school start times (i.e. an override).


Phase II - Winter 2018 to Spring 2019


The Subcommittee went back to the drawing board with a renewed commitment to finding a scenario that would adjust start times for our older students while remaining cost-neutral.  After brainstorming options, the Subcommittee decided to bring forward an option that would switch the HS/MS start/end times with the Miller start/end times. The Subcommittee developed and issued a second survey to all parents and reviewed the results of the survey with the School Committee at its May 16, 2019 meeting.  The School Committee has subsequently voted to change the start dates of the Holliston Public Schools, effective the start of the 2020-2021 school year as follows:


Current School Times

Revised New Times

Effective 2020-21 School Year

Change

HHS 7:30 AM – 2:03 PM

HHS 8:10 AM – 2:43 PM

40 minutes LATER

Adams 7:30 AM – 1:53 PM

Adams 8:10 AM – 2:33 PM

40 minutes LATER

Miller 8:10 AM – 2:33 PM

Miller 7:30 AM – 1:53 PM

40 minutes EARLIER

Placentino 8:50 AM – 3:15 PM

Placentino 8:50 AM – 3:15 PM

No change


Phase III - Summer 2019 to August 2020 - Planning for Implementation


With the decision made, the effort shifts to planning for the new start times.  Of primary importance is addressing the concerns expressed by some Miller parents regarding the impact this change would have on their need for before- and/or after-school care for their Miller students and the concerns expressed by some Miller parents that this change would require their children to wait for the bus before sun up during the winter months.  The Superintendent and Director of Holliston’s Extended Day program will develop a survey to administer to all Miller and Placentino parents in September 2019 to determine the level of community need in this area. Equipped with this information, the Superintendent will work with our Extended Day program and private providers to meet any increased demand caused by this change.  At the High School and Middle School, administrators and teachers will also work to minimize the impact of the new start times on the after-school extra-curricular and athletic programs.