School Start FAQs

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Questions about insufficient sleep and school start time
    Questions about the specific recommendations by Superintendent Unobskey

    About Insufficient Sleep and School Start Time


    • Why do we think changing start times will help?  What problem are we trying to solve?  

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a Policy Statement on “School Start Times for Adolescents” in August 2014 recommending that high schools and middle schools start no earlier than 8:30am.  Numerous other national medical associations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), have issued similar guidance.  They are addressing a nationwide epidemic of insufficient sleep that has serious negative physical and mental health, safety and academic achievement impacts on adolescents.  The AAP has pinpointed that delaying school start time “is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits…”

       

    • Why are adolescents suffering from insufficient sleep? Why can’t parents just get their kids to sleep earlier?

         There are both biological and environmental factors at play. Biologically, approximately at the onset of puberty, most adolescents experience delayed release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.  In addition, most adolescents experience a shift in “sleep drive,” which means it takes longer to fall asleep.  As such, most adolescents cannot fall asleep before 11 pm.  


    Environmental factors also contribute to insufficient sleep, including homework, extracurricular activities, after school jobs and use of technology.  While important to also address these environmental factors, they will only take you so far.  


    The AASM recommends 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep for adolescents.  If a teen can’t fall asleep before 11:00 pm, he/she won’t naturally wake before 7:30 am.  Since the first buses pick up in Wayland at 6:50 am, it is impossible for most of our middle and high school students to get adequate sleep.


    • How many high school and middle school students aren’t getting enough sleep?

    Student survey results in Wayland show we have slightly more sleep deprivation than the nationwide average (73% getting less than 8 hours per night vs. 70% nationwide).  By the time they reach high school, half of our students are getting 6.5 hours of sleep per night or less, significantly below the AASM recommendation of 8-10 hours.  

       

    Of note, Wayland MS/HS start earlier than 55% of MS/HS in MA and earlier than 80% of MS/HS nationwide.

       


    • If we start high school and middle school later, won’t kids just stay up later?

    Most people expect this, and even the researchers who did the original studies on this topic were surprised by the results.  Most kids do not stay up later, they just get more sleep.  Studies have shown that kids get 30-60 minutes more sleep per night when start time is delayed by 60 minutes.  (Some articles on this topic are linked online here.)  Adolescents’ ability to get to sleep is often limited by when their bodies are biologically ready to shut down, and that doesn’t change when start times change.  As such, they will generally go to sleep at about the same time, but are able to sleep longer in the morning.  Some studies have shown an even greater increase in sleep duration than the start time delay because kids are more productive when they are awake; they get their homework done faster when they are less sleep deprived and more alert.    

      

    • Where can I get more information on insufficient sleep and start times?

         There are a number of places to go for more information.  We have provided a few links to key information sources on the School Start Time page:

    http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/school_committee/school_start_times


    • Do we think changing start times will solve the problem that our students aren't getting enough sleep?

    It’s important that you know, and we recognize, that changing start times is not a complete solution to this problem. We are looking at this because we want to provide our children with an environment in which is it possible to get enough sleep. But ensuring that it actually happens is a multi-faceted problem (involving choices about, for example, activities, jobs, course workload and homework) that is also complex, and will require education and commitment from all of us.

    About the Specific Superintendent’s Recommendation


    • How was the recommendation developed? What was the composition and role of the School Start Time Taskforce?

    The School Committee recommended formation of a School Start Time Taskforce (“Taskforce”) after reviewing the scientific research and survey results from students, parents and teachers in March 2017 in recognition of the complexity of the issue.  The Taskforce fell under the supervision of the Superintendent and was comprised of teachers, administrators and parents across schools (working and stay-at-home, Wayland and Boston-based), as well as high school students, central office staff, the METCO director, BASE director, athletic director, and recreation.  Applicants were selected to represent the diverse viewpoints found in the community to ensure all perspectives were vetted, and as such, the Taskforce did not form a consensus opinion. Ultimately, the Superintendent issued a recommendation based upon the work and discussions of the Taskforce.


    • If the AAP Policy Statement recommends 8:30 am or later for MS/HS, why is the recommendation for an 8/8:05 am start?

    Wayland’s mission statement discusses both the academic development of our students, as well as social/emotional development.  We believe that the availability of a robust athletics program plays an important role.  The current interscholastic sports program imposes a constraint on the release time for high school of 2:45 pm to ensure proper arrival time for athletes and access to fields.  This constraint translates into an 8 am latest start for high school.


    In the meantime, the current recommendation begins to reduce the sleep deprivation our middle and high school students are already facing.


    • What would it take to shift to 8:30 am or later?

    The Superintendent will continue discussions with others in the Dual County League in which we participate to begin interscholastic games later, allowing us to shift MS/HS start times closer to 8:30 am.  Other districts that have changed to later start times have employed a variety of methods, from taping athletes on the bus to adding lights to fields to revising curriculum and block schedules.  


    In addition, there is legislative action in the MA state house that could create public policy mandating an 8:30 am or later start at some future date.


    • Are we really going to see a benefit with only a 30 min delay?

    First, while you may expect increased commute time for an 8 am vs. 7:30 am start, the transportation study indicated an immaterial difference. Additionally, a significant percentage of our high school students drive, further protecting the opportunity for added sleep.  Second, the research shows that a number of districts have demonstrated positive outcomes across a variety of physical and mental health parameters, as well as academic performance from delays of 30 minutes.  Particularly, the timing of when the kids are gaining sleep is important.  REM sleep is responsible for the processing of new information and memory and occurs in the early morning hours, exactly when the extra sleep from delaying school times occurs, increasing the impact these minutes can have.

    • Why is the plan being implemented in two steps?

    The transportation study indicated that buses could arrive as much as ten minutes later than the 3:30 pm release time at elementary schools if the high school day ran from 8 am – 2:45 pm.  This not only lengthens the day for our youngest learners, but also creates a staffing issue.  As such, the Superintendent recommends a 7:50/55 am start initially for HS/MS to enable the buses to arrive to elementary school in time.  This leaves time to assess actual experience and explore efficiencies to successfully implement a Phase 2 shift to 8/8:05 am.  


    • Why don’t we move elementary to start earlier than MS/HS?

    The AASM recommends 10-13 hours of sleep per night for 3-5 year old kids and 9-12 hours of sleep per night for 6-12 year old kids.  The Taskforce ruled out an option to start elementary at 7:25 am because elementary students would not obtain the sleep that they need with a 6:45 am first bus pick-up.  This is especially true of our Boston-based students who would have a first bus pick-up of 6 am.   


    • Why can’t we just set the times independently for the various schools (i.e., do we need to change elementary times if we change high school and middle school)?

    Wayland currently run two tiers of buses - we pick up high school and middle school students with one set of buses and then use those same buses to subsequently pick up the elementary school students. Increasing the number of buses to allow use of a single set of buses for all school levels is extremely expensive -- a rough estimate is $800,000 per year.  It’s a decision we could choose to make, but first we would need to be convinced that was the best use of that money and that the taxpayers would support it.

        

    • Will the delay in elementary start times affect learning for elementary students?

    Unlike the extensive research available on start times on middle and high school students, the research on start times for elementary students is limited and conflicting.  There is no clear evidence that a delay of school start times, particularly for a small amount as fifteen minutes, will have a demonstrable impact on the experiences of our elementary students.  (See, for example, Education Next, “Do Schools Begin Too Early?” by Finley Edwards, Summer, 2012)


    • What about clubs and other extracurricular activities?
      Similar to sports, other towns have found no change in participation in clubs and other extra-curricular activities.  These are, fortunately, generally easier to manage as they tend to have fewer issues with conflicts, such as coordinating schedules and competing for fixed resources. Providers adjust schedules to accommodate the new release times.

       

    • What effect would this have on child-care arrangements for elementary students, including availability of morning BASE (Before and After School Extension) program?     

         Impact on child-care arrangements is going to vary for individual families. With young children going to school later in the morning, there likely will be an increased need for before school care. The District is committed to ensuring additional space will be available in before school BASE.  On the other hand, with elementary school getting out later in the afternoon, there may be somewhat less need for after-school care.  

    Information about the current BASE program is available at:  http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/district_info/wayland_school_community_programs/b_a_s_e


    • What about teachers?  What do they think about this?   

         Like the rest of us, there will be an adjustment for all of our teachers and staff.  For some, the new schedules will be preferable, for others they will be less preferred. Other districts that have implemented start time delays have worried about potential teacher turnover, but anecdotal evidence suggests this does not typically occur.  

       

    • What about METCO and transportation to and from Boston?

    METCO transportation always has been and will continue to be a challenge. Boston resident students have a long commute both in the morning and afternoon, and their day is considerably longer than their Wayland counterparts.  That will continue to be the case.  However, the Boston-based high school and middle school students are currently the most at-risk for sleep-deprivation among our students as they are the earliest risers in the system, and stand the most to gain from a delay in start times.  The current proposal recommends adding an afternoon bus for METCO elementary students that will speed afternoon routes and get Boston-based elementary students home earlier than they are getting home in the current school year.  Currently, the last bus drop-off in Boston for elementary students is at 5:30 pm and with the additional afternoon bus run, will be 5:00 pm.  This is an improvement over the current return home times.

       

    • How will this affect traffic flow in town?

         The District has not yet studied the impact to traffic flows in town.  This is part of the reason behind delaying implementation of the full half-hour shift for one year.  Experience in other districts that have implemented delayed starts show that traffic patterns adjust over time to the new time.