School Board Likes Late Start in 2018-19

After hearing that students at La Cañada High School are getting more sleep this school year, Governing Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that the school bring back its “late start” bell schedule next fall.
For 2017-18, La Cañada Unified School District became one of the first districts in the state to start the school day at its high school at 8:30 a.m. (later than the previous 7:45 a.m. start). The initiative was inspired by the Challenge Success program, which is focused on improving students’ overall well-being.
A series of surveys were conducted and an oversight committee composed of students, parents, faculty and administrators met four times to evaluate the later start, said Jim Cartnal, executive director of pupil and personnel programs and services.
“The late start schedule is wildly popular,” said Cartnal at Tuesday’s board meeting, where he also acknowledged that the schedule presented problems for some students, particularly softball and water polo players, wrestlers and those who are dropped off at school early. There are plans, he said, to improve the experience for those students.
Cartnal presented survey results reflecting the current schedule’s overwhelming popularity and also indicating that the modified bell schedule seems to have gotten more popular as the year progressed.
About 54% of the 355 LCHS students who responded in February indicated they were “very satisfied” with late start, 27% said they were “satisfied,” and 7% said they were either very dissatisfied or dissatisfied.
In October, 38% of high schoolers said they were “very satisfied,” 32% said they were “satisfied” and about 15% indicated they were dissatisfied in a survey that had 409 respondents.
At LCHS 7/8, where students were surveyed most recently in January, about 70% indicated they were pleased with the 8:30 a.m. start while about 11% answered negatively.
“I don’t hang my hat and say we’ve cracked the sleep problem at LC,” said Cartnal, who said he’s heard that students haven’t altered their bedtimes, but that they are getting up later. “LC kids are still getting a lot less sleep than is recommended, but it’s improving.”
According to survey results, students from 7th through 12th grade all reported getting more sleep.
Seniors surveyed said they’ve been sleeping 6.56 hours per night this past year after getting 6.11 hours of shuteye each night in 2016. Freshmen reported sleeping for 6.51 hours each night instead of 6.12. The difference wasn’t as drastic among 8th-graders, who said they got 7.23 hours of sleep per night instead of 7.1.
Experts, however, recommend that adolescents receive 9.15 hours of sleep per night.
“One of the Challenge Success initiatives is to explain the importance of getting sleep in the same way we talk about the importance of eating breakfast or having a good diet,” Cartnal said. “And I think kids have heard that … but we need to continue to spread the message that eight hours or more of sleep is important to a population that usually got six and felt that was a badge of honor.”
Roberta McKean, an epidemiologist and parent, said that although the unscientific survey data might indicate preference, it didn’t present data that the later start was benefiting students in more measurable ways, such as addressing whether it reduced drug use, tardiness and vehicular deaths, among other issues.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said Challenge Success will continue to collect that sort of data, which the district will monitor. And Cartnal suggested that perception data is “a valid data domain.”
Cartnal also said athletic coaches will know not to enter their teams in tournaments on school days when students are on a block schedule, which will cut down on missed class time for members of their teams.
As for students who told him, “You know what I didn’t get, Cartnal? A late start — because my mom’s boss didn’t give her a late start,” Cartnal said the district plans to better communicate the early morning on-campus options to those families, and perhaps to introduce breakfast service in the cafeteria.
“We need to let everyone know the [Information Recourse Center] has a warm, safe, dry, technologically dense place to work,” said Cartnal, who also plans to reach out to the city to inquire about adjusting the shuttle bus schedule to better accommodate students’ after-school transportation needs.

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