Superintendent: No change in Anchorage high schools start times

Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage high school classes should continue to start at 7:30 a.m., said school district superintendent Carol Comeau.

Comeau's recommendation Thursday followed months of meetings and mixed input from thousands of parents and students.

Debate over school start times was triggered last spring when several parents told the Anchorage School Board that the 7:30 a.m. start for high school classes is out of tune with biological clocks of teenagers. Armed with research, they said a later time could lead to better grades and improved attendance.

Comeau, however, said change would affect the entire community and at this point would be irresponsible, the Anchorage Daily News reported. She has recommended the district conduct more research, visit schools Outside that have pushed back classes, and address the issue again in a year.

''I haven't closed the door on this, but for next school year it's premature,'' Comeau said. ''I know some people will be disappointed. But we've got a lot more to do.''

On Monday, Comeau will make her recommendation to the School Board, which will hear public testimony before making a final decision.

There are six choices of start times. Option A leaves things the same; five others make various changes. The biggest adjustment would open high schools at 9:30 a.m. And any change would cost money -- from a small amount to $7 million.

More than 4,500 parents, students and community members submitted opinions via comment cards, distributed by the district and e-mail. Option A drew 1,524 backers --- more than any other category. But 2,995 people urged change, with support split among the remaining alternatives.

Some people said that if their choice wasn't picked, they'd rather things just stay the same, said Pat McDowell, assistant superintendent for instruction.

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