Stop early elementary school start times in Des Moines public schools

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The short version

  1. DMPS, CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics all agree children learn better after 8:10 am
  2. DMPS polled the community the last two years about the change of school hours- this year a smaller part of the community responded to the change and they were less favorable
  3. The change polled was 7:50 but the actual change is 7:30
  4. Inexplicably contrary to their own data and in the face of weakening support the district moved ahead with the change
  5. Other districts have attempted to adopt the same bad policy but changed course when confronted by parents
  6. Parents understand not only will this change cause hardships but hurt children the duration of their elementary education
  7. Some teachers are afraid to speak against this policy out of fear of retaliation

Long version

I’m a board member on the Greenwood Elementary School PTA. I’m writing you today to network as parents and teachers to bring an important issue before you - the change to elementary school hours proposed for next school year. In speaking with fellow parents and teachers, many have expressed that the change to elementary school hours will create a hardship on their family. More important than scheduling hardships and expenses associated with this change, is the negative impact to the learning of our children. There is a large body of evidence from the Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others, that all say that children learn best when classes begin 8:10 or later. While young children might be able to fall asleep more easily at night, many of them do not have the option based on family scheduling, meaning that many elementary children in Des Moines will lose an hour or more of sleep on all school days. This will hurt both their physical well-being and their capacity for academic achievement. DMPS itself made the case during the survey period that students learn better when they start school later – the body of scientific evidence supports this – however, instead of having that data drive them to the right decision, they decided to pick middle and high school students as winners and elementary school students and their families as acceptable collateral damage. Nationally, as public schools face tightening budgets, many districts are looking at similar schedules. Boston Public Schools attempted a very similar schedule that DMPS is proposing, based on a bussing algorithm from Harvard University – the district would save money on transportation but many children would lose hours of sleep, time with their families, and experience adverse academic outcomes. After parent outcry, Boston Public Schools reversed course. This year, the state of California attempted to ban classes beginning before 8:30am. According to the data published by DMPS about 2,000 fewer families participated in the survey this year as compared to last year-fewer families are in favor of the change this year than last year. Unfortunately, our most vulnerable students will bear the weight of this bad policy. The parents of at-risk children more often work in industries that have less flexibility to adapt to this change of up to 75 minutes. This change hurts elementary school families in several ways: children will lose sleep, children will be at school during hours that they are proven to be less likely to succeed, more parents will need before/after care-more expenses, in families where those expenses cannot be absorbed many children will go unsupervised – children as young as 5 years old. I’m asking you to please help me stop this bad policy. As parents of elementary students ask yourself if your children are irritable, wild, or in the best position to learn when they are sleepy. Raise your voice with me at the School Board meeting February 6th and every meeting thereafter, together we can roll back this policy before our youngest and most vulnerable children suffer. 



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