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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District is embarking on a “listening tour” of local schools and libraries to gauge public support for pushing high school start times back 30 minutes or more.
The late start policy is being considered as evidence mounts for the importance of getting enough sleep, especially for developing teenagers. But district spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin said later starts would change not just high school schedules, but the schedules for almost every school in the district.
“The late start change would impact the high schools, but the busing would affect schools throughout the district,” Chatwin said. “So there might be changes in the middle schools and the elementary schools that might be necessary to accommodate all the bus routes.
“In families, there are students who go to multiple levels of school. So even in one family, even though they might have only one student in high school, the rest of their kids are in elementary school, so they’ll still be impacted across all their students’ schedules, potentially.”
The district’s late start listening tour will begin on Monday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. at Bryant Middle School and will include stops at Northwest Middle School on Thursday, Jan. 16; Hillside Middle School on Friday, Jan. 17; and the Glendale Branch public library on Saturday, Jan. 18.
The Saturday meeting begins at 10 a.m., and the rest are at 6 p.m.
The Salt Lake City School District commissioned Y2 Analytics to study the issue of late starts last semester, and the resulting report found widespread conceptual support — upward of 80% — for the idea, provided that elementary and middle school start times were not significantly altered.
But Chatwin said that dissenting voices, which the survey found were disproportionately from low-income and Hispanic communities, are welcomed at the listening tour as well.
“The biggest concern among families who oppose the change to late start was lack of flexibility in their work schedules,” Chatwin said. “Some of our families don’t necessarily have the flexibility to take that into account.
There’s a strong correlation between the increase in anxiety and depression in our teenagers and the low amount of sleep that they get.
–Yándary Chatwin, district spokeswoman
“They also had concerns about child care and about situations where there’s going to be an older sibling at home with the younger kids, or even doing school pick-up or drop-off depending on the grade level of the younger ones. So the school board wants to make sure they hear from all perspectives and take that feedback into account.”
Chatwin said that later start times — resulting, hopefully, in more sleep — could help teenagers with their mental health and academic performance.
“There’s a strong correlation between the increase in anxiety and depression in our teenagers and the low amount of sleep that they get,” Chatwin said.
She said the school board is “always looking to do what’s best for the students.”
“So this is just another way that they’re looking out for the kids in the Salt Lake School District," she said.
The Salt Lake City School District website has links to the Y2Analytics study on late start, as well as four different options currently being considered for its implementation. The options detail how start and end times would change for all 28 elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools in the district.
The most ambitious plan would push high school start times back an hour, from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m.; the other plans call for more modest 15- or 30-minute changes, while Option B would not change high school start times at all.
Chatwin noted that there will be Spanish translation services at all the listening tour meetings and that with 48 hours’ notice, the district can provide translation for other languages as well. Parents and community members can contact the district by calling Lisa Alleman at 801-578-8351 to arrange for translation services in their native language.
Chatwin said that any ultimate decisions about whether and when to implement late start will be left to the district’s school board.