School Start Times Study

School Start Time Image

The School Committee is currently considering the implications of Andover school schedules on adolescents’ mental health and well-being, and potential impacts of changing school start times within the district. This webpage will serve as a place for resources and information for parents, faculty and staff. We encourage you to visit often. As the conversation continues, we will share updates here.

APS School Start Times - Engagement Opportunities

Throughout the pandemic, we have heard from many across the community with concerns about student well-being and mental health, and the importance of making evidence-based decisions informed by science. We share in these concerns and continue to support efforts that put students first in Andover Public School policies and operations.

In 2018, the district began examining the issue of school start times based on the recommendation of many professional medical organizations* that start times be delayed to 8:30 AM for adolescents in response to biological changes in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms during this stage of development. The key value of this initiative is to provide the opportunity for a positive impact on student well-being, and enhancing physical and mental health.

 

Options for changing start times have been extensively studied by the district over the past three years and we appreciate the enormous amount of feedback that has already been provided through the start time working group, parent advisory group, community forums, school-based meetings with families and students, at school committee meetings, in email and other communications. We hope you will once again engage with us to share your thoughts as we look toward making a start time decision for next school year.

 

During the pandemic, Andover High School shifted its start time from 7:45 AM to 8:15 AM because the district was unable to bus students in grades 9 to 12. Bus transportation will be restored for all grade levels next year, returning to a traditional level of service. This will necessitate a consolidation from the current three tiers of start times (7:45 AM at middle schools, 8:15 AM at high school, 8:45 AM at elementary schools) to return to two tiers of transportation in the fall.

 

The leading scenario under consideration for next year would have the start time at Andover High remain at 8:15 AM, move middle schools to the same 8:15 AM start for transportation efficiency and student health benefit, and shift elementary schools to a 9:00 AM start.  This proposal was developed from stakeholder feedback received to date, and attempts to balance the scientifically proven benefits of later start times for middle and high school students with the goal of minimizing schedule impacts on elementary families. Other options considered and discussed with stakeholders included "flipping" elementary and secondary start times. The pros and cons of various scenarios are summarized in the June 2020 report of the Start Time Working Group

 

The School Committee  welcomes your feedback on this proposal in one or more of the following ways: 

  1. Fill out the feedback form found here. The form will close to responses on Wednesday, June 16th at noon.
  2. Join a remote meeting to share your thoughts directly with members of the School Committee on:  Tuesday, June 8th and/or Thursday, June 10 between 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM. Please register in advance and the meeting link will be emailed to you: 

Your participation and engagement is important to us.

Thank you,

SKMc signature jpg

Susan K. McCready

Chairperson, Andover School Committee 


*Professional medical organizations that recommend later start times for adolescents include: American Academy of PediatricsAmerican Academy of Sleep MedicineAmerican Academy of Sleep TechniciansAmerican Medical AssociationAmerican Psychological AssociationAmerican Sleep AssociationAmerican Thoracic SocietyCenters for Disease ControlNational Association of School NursesNational Parent Teacher AssociationNational Sleep FoundationSociety of Behavioral Medicine, and Society of Pediatric Nurses.

School Start Times Update- May 2021

The Andover School Committee held a discussion and updated the community with a presentation on start times at the May 20, 2021 meeting.  

Previous School Start Times Updates

APS Assistant Superintendent Sandra Trach presented a School Start Time Summary Report to the School Committee at a meeting on June 25, 2020. The School Committee held a workshop on the School Start Times initiative on July 10, 2020.

In June 2019, the School Start Time Working Group sent surveys inviting community feedback on the impact of school start times. 

Results are available at the links below. 

Survey Visual Analysis Presentation to School Committee- September 2019

Previous Community Forums & Workshops:

In the fall of 2019, the School Committee held various forums and opportunities to hear from the community: 

Forum Presentations


Background: 

Over the past several years, Andover Public Schools, under the leadership of Dr. Berman, has built a formal strategic plan called the “Theory of Action.” 

The “Theory of Action” has a number of elements including a commitment that Andover students study a rigorous curriculum that drives academic growth. It also calls for consideration of students’ social, physical and emotional growth – in addition to academics.

Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Education Association, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control all recommend school not start before 8:30 AM for middle and high school students.

These organizations’ research concludes that sleep impacts brain function, which helps us perform better whether we’re taking a test, driving a car, or regulating our emotions. Well-rested students perform better academically, make better judgments, and have less physical and mental health problems.

In Andover, our current start times are:

  • High School – 7:44 AM
  • Middle Schools- 7:45 AM
  • Elementary Schools- 8:45 AM
  • Shawsheen- 9 AM

The School Committee has asked district leadership to evaluate the impact of making a change to school start times that would allow middle & high school students more sleep. A small working group has been assembled to come up with logistical options, with the goal of making an overall positive impact on student well-being.

We understand and appreciate that scheduling changes are hard, and a decision to move start times would impact the lives of every Andover school family and staff member. Of course, there will be pros and cons to every schedule, and we will look forward to gaining feedback from the community once options are developed.

To begin our public outreach, in November 2018 we held a community discussion around this issue, joined by Dr. Judith Owens, director of Sleep Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and professor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Her presentation can be found here.