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Maggie Foa and Delia Guilbert

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Last night, the Littleton Public Schools board of education made a decision that will affect every single one of our everyday lives (except seniors). More than likely, you’ve heard the news and have an opinion. Next year, high school will begin at 8:30 and end at 3:30. Having been to both the board meetings discussing this controversial change, we can verify that there is a lot more that went into this decision than the boards personal desire to ruin your lives. The purpose of this article to outline the boards intentions and outcomes, the journalism staff remains neutral on these decisions.  

 

Health Benefits

The reason that this change was enacted is a result of recommendations from the Center for Disease Control that teenagers, in order to get a proficient quantity of shuteye, should not be starting school before 8:30. The primary finding of the study was that when students get enough sleep, mental health outcomes are measurably improved. Specifically, a population is 42% more likely to experience a suicide for each hour less sleep they get. Of course there are other factors involved in the mental health discussion, and more sleep is not an automatic fix.  However, In light of a number of mental health tragedies the past few years, the board has felt pressure from the community to make changes.  In their opinion, the inconvenience and problems that this change presents are not significant compared to the potential benefits.

 

Sports and Work

Many Arapahoe students have vocalized that with a later start and end time, getting to work/ sports and home in a timely fashion will be an issue. This was discussed numerous times during both meetings and the board concluded that the extra hour of shuteye is worth sacrificing that hour of work or sports. The board concluded that it will allow students to be withdrawn from classes early to attend competitions after school, however it seems like sports and activities that do not already practice/ meet in the morning will not be allowed to start doing so once the change is enacted. The board is concerned that if all activities switch to practicing before school, the benefits of this change will be nullified. In addition, they are looking into supplying fields with more adequate lighting so that teams can practice later into the night. Field space will also become an issue, especially for lower level teams that tend to practice later, some of these issues will be addressed by the board, but many may be left to the schools to deal with on a case by case basis.

 

Transportation

In addition, transportation was a reoccuring theme. Planning of bus routes and drivers within the budget is extremely problematic to begin with. In order to have each kid to school on time, the bus routes are planned down to the minute to accommodate for student walk times to bus stops, snow, and rush hour traffic. These transportation concerns are the reason that the board also changed the middle and elementary school times; middle school will now start at 9 and end at 4; elementary school will start at 8 and finish at 3.

 

Childcare for Middle and Elementary

For a number of families, the change in start/ end time of the elementary and middle schools will means that people have to readjust their schedules and come up with childcare options for either before or after school. The elementary schools already have a program set up for this, and enrollment is expected to increase. Students that qualify for reduced lunches may be able to access these childcare programs at a reduced or waived cost. Additionally, middle schools may allow activities to make place before school and will have a before school homework club to allow students to come to middle school before 9 and end their day at a reasonable time.

 

Coaches/ Club sponsors

Another recurring theme of the meetings was concern for the teachers livelihood- especially those that coach after school. Many worry that with middle and high school ending later, teachers who also coach sports or sponsor clubs will no longer be available for those commitments because they will need to work so late into the night. Many argued that forming a bond with a coach who is also a teacher is extremely beneficial, but there is no data available on how many coaches/ teachers this would discourage. If there is a reduction of the number of coaches, LPS can plan to see heavy community recruitment of coaches from outside the district. Concerns were raised about whether coach/ athlete relationships would be weakened if coaches were hired externally.

 

Cherry Creek has already made a similar change in their district and has been very successful. Many of the boards discussions were modeled from what Cherry Creek has been able to do. They have decided that the health and wellness benefits outweigh the inconvenience. The board expressed that the concerns raised by the community are adult problems that adults can solve, and that student health must be prioritized.

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