Littleton Public Schools Parents Against Early Start Times

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We, the families of students at Littleton Public School District elementary schools, are extremely concerned and in strong opposition to the proposed 7:50 a.m. (now suggested 8:00 a.m.) start time.  This change will negatively impact our children:

Transportation Safety:  Our young children’s safety must be in the forefront.  If the new start time is adopted, young children will be waiting at the bus stops or walking to school in the dark/dawn during some months of the year.  This is unsafe for our young children.  For example, in December the average sunrise time is 7:14 a.m. and in January the average sunrise time is 7:19 a.m. 

Poor Academic Performance:  We urge you to look at the study conducted at the University of Kentucky that found earlier elementary school start times were a risk factor for poor school performance.[1]  The study finds that elementary start times are associated with academic achievement. Their research also indicates that the trend of altering middle and high school start times later at the expense of elementary schools "may simply be shifting the problem from adolescents to younger children, instead of eliminating it altogether.”

Sleep:  This proposal will negatively impact our young children by depriving them of sleep.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9 to 11 hours of sleep for school-aged children, ages 5 to 10.[2]  The American Academy of Pediatrics found that even 30 minutes of extra sleep for “children ages 7 to 11 resulted in significant improvement in their ability to regulate their emotions, including limiting restless-impulsive behavior in school.”[3]  With the recommended start time, this would suggest elementary aged children would need to go to bed VERY early, even early as 6:30 p.m.  This would be a challenge for many families. While it is nice to think children will go to bed earlier, this will cut in to family meals, family time or simply not be possible with evening sports or older siblings.

Absences:  There will likely be an increase in tardiness, absences and illnesses due to an earlier start time.[4]   Parents will be reluctant to send kids to school with inadequate sleep.

Length of Day:  An early start time will put elementary children in school and aftercare for longer hours.  They will go to school earlier, yet still be picked up in aftercare at the same time.  This will make for a very long day.
After School Care:  The recommended dismissal time of 2:35 p.m. is too early for working parents to be home in time for their young children.  In addition, some families rely on their middle or high school children to babysit their younger ones.  This would not be an option as the older children would still be in school.  We do not want our young children coming home to an empty house or waiting at home alone for longer periods of time.  They are less self-sufficient than older children and need the care and help of an adult.  The earlier start and dismissal time will require more money spent on childcare, and less parent-child time.  This is not good for families, for kids or for our community.

Athletics/After School Activities:  Young children are coached by parents, who are not able to leave work and coach at 3 p.m.  In addition, many after-school activities are not scheduled until well after 3 p.m.

Research: It is our understanding that the majority of the research on school start times is a correlation including the research on adolescents which is a large body of research and supports later start times are more advantageous for adolescents.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a strong body of research on how earlier start times will effect elementary schools.  It is necessary to have a good body of research to support an earlier start time for elementary schools before we adopt this proposed change or roll it out to the entire school district.  Per Dr. Peggy Keller, there are only 3 bodies of research that specifically address the effect of earlier start times in elementary schools and two of those studies are Dr. Keller’s.  Dr. Keller’s first study finds a correlation with earlier start times and poorer test scores in elementary school children and the Dr.’s other study finds a correlation to behavior problems to earlier start times.  Also, Brown Medical School and Bradley Hospital research shows "less sleep leads to more struggles for elementary and middle school students". [5]

Cherry Creek School District: In 2007, Cherry Creek School District implemented a start time change, however, it was only implemented for a year before they changed it back.  What caused this program to fail?
 

For these and many other reasons, we ask that the Littleton Public School District Board of Education deny the proposed 7:50 a.m. (now suggested 8:00 a.m.) start time for elementary schools.  We appreciate the view of those supporting this change to better benefit adolescent sleep patterns. However, such change should not be at the sacrifice and detriment of the elementary school students’ sleep, development, safety and academic success.

References:
[1] “University of Kentucky study: Early school start times may be detrimental to young children.” Lexington Herald-Leader. August 19, 2014. http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article44504058.html
[2] “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” National Sleep Foundation.  http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
[3] “More Sleep Linked to Improved Child Alertness, Behavior.”  American Academy of Pediatrics.  October 15, 2012.   https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/More-Sleep-Linked-to-Improved-Child-Alertness-Behavior.aspx 

[4] Lexington Herald-Leader. “University of Kentucky study … detrimental to young children.” Op cit.

[5] "Less Sleep, More Struggles for Elementary and Middle School Students".  Brown Medical School and Bradley Hospital.  SLEEP December 2005.  https://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2005-06/05-046.html  



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