School district gets 4,500 responses to school start change proposals

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Anchorage School District headquarters has been bombarded with more than 4,500 e-mails and comment cards on proposals to change the start time of the school day at local high schools.

So far no consensus has emerged from the debate.

High-schoolers historically have started classes earlier than other grade levels. But some research shows internal clocks in teenagers make it harder for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and to get enough sleep before Anchorage high schools open at 7:30 a.m.

Studies say the subsequent sleep deprivation impairs learning, memory, motor skills, mood and judgment.

To address those concerns, some school districts in Oregon, Kentucky, Minnesota and Maryland have started high school later in the day.

In 1996, the Edina Public School District outside Minneapolis changed its start time from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Two years later, it reported students were more alert and earning better grades. But it was harder for the district to find buses and facilities for activities, and teachers said they were more tired after classes and not as eager to help with after-school events.

An Anchorage task force convened last fall to study the issue and unveiled six options in February. District officials sent information and postage-paid comment cards to the home of every student. Hundreds sent opinions by e-mail.

Nearly 3,000 of those who responded favored some kind of change, but were divided on what that change should be. Any difference in start times could require additional buses and drivers, said Steve Kalmes, transportation director.

Superintendent Carol Comeau will recommend an option to the School Board on Monday.

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