•  

    Student Wellness

    School Start & End Times

     

    As part of our mission to provide a world-class education for every child, NCPS continuously explores ways to improve the student experience at each of the district's five schools.  As a result, we have been engaged in a process of researching and understanding the connections between school start and end times and student health and wellness.  As this investigation evolved, the Board of Education committed to a goal focused on developing recommendations regarding school start and end times and understanding the related implications of these recommendations.   

    The New Canaan Public Schools are committed to doing all that we can to create the conditions for students to thrive and excel in our schools.  Over the past several years, it has been reported locally and nationally that students are experiencing a high degree of pressure and stress, and New Canaan's students are not immune.  While school start/end times are not a "solution" to the pressures and stress that our students are experiencing, we believe that a change, developed and implemented as part of a comprehensive solution and focused on student health and wellness, could be beneficial and is therefore worth exploring.

    From the beginning, the district has taken a thoughtful and strategic approach to investigating this topic, such as:

    • Attending conferences in Washington, DC, Hartford, and elsewhere
    • Speaking to others involved in similar reviews, including those who have made a change and those who have chosen not to make a change
    • Reviewing the research in support of a change
    • Holding a meeting with internal stakeholders to share research and generate items for consideration
    • Partnering with Hanover Research, who assisted a neighboring district with their recent change, to perform research and administer a stakeholder survey
    • Partnering with Transportation Advisory Services (TAS) to develop options for Board and community discussions and to perform a transportation study
    • Conducting feasibility routing analyses of the various options and outlining implementation strategies with the district's bus contractor 
    • Organizing a focus group discussion with teachers, building administrators, BOE members, district administrators, parents, and members of the Healthy School Start Times New Canaan to identify guiding principles and other considerations from the various perspectives
    • Meeting with faculty and staff at all five buildings to share scenarios developed by TAS, receive feedback, and open lines of communication
    • Meeting with union leaders of New Canaan's six employee unions to share findings from the study and open lines of communication

    Throughout the process, the anticipated benefits of a change, the challenges of making a change, the complexity of the New Canaan school system, and the many considerations that must be accounted for in weighing a change continue to factor into the discussions and planning.  Some of the areas of focus and related considerations include:

    • Research on the relationship between adolescent student sleep patterns and school start times
      • A growing body of research suggests:
        • A significant number of American teenagers experience detrimental pressure and stress in their daily lives
        • Many teenagers are not getting the recommended amount of sleep (8-10 hours/night)
        • Sleep deprivation in teens negatively impacts emotional intelligence and contributes to increased feelings of pressure and stress, poor decision-making, difficulties with learning, and challenges with executive functioning
        • This same research suggests that later start times for adolescent students can help them get more sleep, thereby strengthening their emotional intelligence and helping with decision-making, learning, and executive functioning

    • A dearth of formal research related to student start/end times for younger students leads us to consider anecdotal feedback from staff working with these students
        • Elementary faculty and staff report that late afternoon times (after 3:00) are not conducive to young student learning, and that early dismissals are disruptive to the classrooms
        • Middle school (upper division) faculty and staff report that 7-8 grade students appear tired in the morning
        • Middle school (lower division) faculty and staff report that 5-6 grade students are in the appropriate time slot

    • New Canaan students at all grade levels are highly involved participants in extra-curricular activities  
      • Over 70% of NCHS student participate on one or more teams each year in our athletics program
      • 100's of students participate annually in the Visual and Performing Arts programs (drama, chorus, orchestra, band, etc.) at the middle and high school
      • Middle-level and elementary students widely participate in town-sponsored athletic and other activities, and often share facilities with school-based programs by utilizing them afterwards (i.e... fields, classrooms, auditoriums, etc.) 

    • To be successful, any proposed change must be operationalized by the district.  Therefore, the current 3-tier bus system must be understood and reviewed to identify opportunities for change
      • The current system is "highly efficient" according to TAS; therefore, there are no meaningful opportunities within the system to generate additional time for students
      • Our current 3-tier system is grouped as follows:
        • Tier 1:  NCHS & Saxe 7-8 (7:30 - 2:05)
        • Tier 2:  Saxe 5-6 and South (8:15 - 2:50)
        • Tier 3:  East and West (9:05 - 3:35)
      • The elementary school day is 6 hours 30 minutes; secondary school day is 6 hours 35 minutes
      • School start and end times are primarily driven by the time it takes all buses to bring students home at the end of the day and return to the next school at dismissal
      • The school district currently contracts enough buses to support the existing 3-tier system.  The current system is highly efficient and without excess capacity
      • Additional buses are approximately $100,000 each / year
      • Significant changes to the current 3-tier system requires additional buses

     At this point, the district is continuing to perform research, gather feedback, and generate ideas.  The Board of Education has tasked the administration to provide regular updates to the Board as a "committee of the whole" as the process continues.  

    Next steps for this work include multiple quick surveys of students grades 7-12 focused on identifying their use of time outside of the school day.  With a link generated by the district, students will be asked to quickly (under 3 minutes) identify the time they spend doing various activities, including sleeping, doing homework, athletics, visual or performing arts, etc. outside of the school day.  With these results, the administration will be better able to weigh possible considerations for a change.  Additionally, it could be used to help determine a "baseline," which could then be compared against the results of any change after readministering the instrument in the future to determine impacts of any change.  Essentially, it will help  create a "pre" dataset to compare against a "post" if a change is implemented.

    Another next step is the ongoing traffic study being performed by TAS at our request.  A representative from TAS will be visiting New Canaan to observe, interview, and recommend solutions to some of the traffic challenges, including the district's desire to have Saxe Middle School on one tier instead of splitting it between two. 

    The district is committed to doing all that it can on behalf of the students in our care, and we are dedicated to completing this research and study balancing thoroughness with urgency to ensure that any recommended change meets the stated need of adjusting adolescent start times while avoiding negative consequences for students, staff, and the entire New Canaan community.

     

    Internal Resources/Links:

     

    School Start Time Survey results/analysis - May 2019 - Presentation to the BOE 6/24/2019

    Video Introducing the School Start and End Times Survey (4/30 - 5/10 administration)

    Video summarizing some key points for consideration related school start times

    Update to the Board of Education March, 2019

    DRG A - Instructional Hours and School Start and End Times - January, 2019 

    Overview and notes from focus group discussion October, 2018

    School Start Time Conference in Washington, DC. attended by Dr. Luizzi Spring 2017.  Data shared with stakeholders

    Hanover Study - School Start Times (October 2017)

    Hanover Study - School Start and End Times Survey Analysis (2018)

    Start School Later conference held at Trinity College and attended by Dr. Luizzi and Ms. Carlson (BOE Chair) on October 27, 2018.  Data shared with stakeholders

    Bell Options developed by Transportation Advisory Services (TAS)

    November 19, 2018 Board of Education presentation by TAS on Bell Options and Board discussion  

    December 3, 2018 Board of Education discussion regarding school start times  

    December 17, 2018 Board of Education discussion regarding school start times

     

    External Resources/Links:

    Pediatric Sleep Physician from Yale University Dr. Craig Canapari's website

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention - "Schools Start Too Early"

    National Sleep Foundation "Backgrounder: Later School Start Times"

    US News - "Parents, Educators: Later High School Start Times Yield Mixed Results"

    Psychology Today - "Starting School Later is not Enough"

    National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) - "Later school start times for supporting the education, health, and well-being of high school students"  

    NCBI - Longitudinal Outcomes of Start Time Delay on Sleep, Behavior, and Achievement in High School

    Cochrane - "Later school start times for supporting the education, health, and well-being of high school students" 

    American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement - "School Start Times for Adolescents"