Lawrence high schools to have late start

USD 497 school board announces high schools to start at 8:30 am, beginning August 2019

By Izzy Hedges, Online Managing Editor

The Lawrence school board announces Lawrence High and Free State will commence school 25 minutes later, starting at the beginning of the 2019 academic year.

 “In theory, students should have more time to sleep in and get a better night’s sleep,” Scholars Bowl head coach and math teacher Matthew Ellis said. “However, I think we all fit our activities into our day where we can, so students will be just as busy and go to bed later.”

Beginning in the 2019 school year, high schools will begin at 8:30 am, while zero hours will start at 8:05 am. The school board will be hosting listening and informational forums with students, parents, and staff in March, April, and May, regarding the change in schedule. While some students would not mind sleeping 25 minutes later, some have concerns with the new schedule affecting extra curriculars.

“I think a lot of students will do better in school, but the students who are in sports probably won’t have anything change,” Leah Merritt said. “They are spending just as much time at school and then doing homework at night.”

Transportation appears to be a concern, as district transportation costs are estimated to be $100,000 per year with later start and dismissal times. More buses  will be needed through the district bus contractor, First Student, as high school and elementary schools will be starting at different times.

Research demonstrates later start times would improve performance academically, graduation and attendance rates, as well as teen vehicle and sports injuries. Board member Rick Ingram encouraged later start times, which allowed the board to run an online and phone survey in November, directed towards parents and staff. The phone survey conveyed that 78 percent were in favor of the board making later start times a priority or further studying later start times, according to Lawrence Journal World.

“I don’t necessarily think that a half hour is going to make any difference in performance. Probably if we start later, we will have to go later,” photography teacher Angela Perkins said. “I think that may make a difference in sports and after school activities. For me, I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference.”

The schedule change will begin in August 2019, as the board will continue to deliberately plan and gain more feedback from parents, students, and staff. While studies indicate students will improve academically with later start times, students and staff question the upcoming schedule’s effects on extracurricular activities, and whether the change is necessary.

“In theory, we should see some positive gains in performance, but I doubt much will change in that regard either,” Ellis said. “In the end, I think the negatives could potentially outweigh the good when you consider all of the collateral damage caused to co-curriculars, extracurriculars, and outside-of-school activities.”