School Start Times - Frequently Asked Questions
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When will the new start-times go into effect?
- The new times will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.
Why did start times change?
- Research has found that later high school start times help promote better sleep patterns in teenagers and improve academic outcomes. (See a sample of the research here).
- Over the past three years, 57 BPS elementary schools extended the length of their school days, resulting in dismissal times of 4:10 PM in 27 schools, which many feel is too late for elementary school students.
- Our transportation system is highly interconnected, making it nearly impossible to change any one school without more system-wide change.
How was the BPS community involved in this process?
- Over those last 18 months, BPS gathered and analyzed feedback from the community. Specifically, the district:
- Heard from nearly 10,000 parents, teachers and school staff through a district-wide survey to families and staff members.
- Hosted 17 community meetings with students, parents, teachers and community members.
- Launched a website that received more than 10,000 visits since October and attracted more than 2,000 online comments.
What is the new BPS policy regarding school start times?
- Based on the feedback we heard throughout this process, we outlined a new start time policy that was approved by the Boston School Committee on December 6, 2017. This policy will:
- In line with research about start times that maximize learning, increase the number of secondary school students starting after 8:00 AM;
- Where possible, increase the number of elementary school students dismissing before 4:00 PM;
- Where possible, assign schools with higher concentrations of medically fragile students or students with autism or emotional impairment to bell times reflective of the needs of their student body;
- Where possible, do all of the above while maximizing reinvestment in schools.
- Additionally, BPS will work with out-of-school partners to ensure a range of before- and after-school programming options are available for students and families who experience changes in school schedules.
How did BPS follow this policy and make changes to school start-times?
- Boston Public Schools worked with the MIT Operations Research Center to develop an optimization tool that allowed the district to maximize the goals outlined in the start- and end-times policy on a system-wide basis, while preserving a variety of options for families.
- This tool prioritized the factors outlined in the policy, and was not biased toward any one school or set of schools. Each school was placed at a time that optimizes these system-wide goals.
- The tool also ensures that the allocation of start times is balanced across neighborhoods.
What factors were considered when changing school start times?
- In addition to the priorities outlined in the policy, the district accounted for several unique factors, such as:
- School-specific pairings, attempting to ensure as much as possible that:
- An upper and lower school at different campuses (for example, the Roosevelt Lower School that serves grades K1-1 and the Roosevelt Upper School that serves grades 2-8) start within 30 minutes of each other.
- Schools sharing the same building do not start or end at the same time.
- Secondary schools close to each other will have different dismissal times so as not to overcrowd MBTA stations or streets.
- School-specific pairings, attempting to ensure as much as possible that:
- Traffic patterns throughout the city at various times throughout the day.
- Equity considerations, including, for example, the ability for families in different neighborhoods to have multiple school start time choices.
Why does BPS plan on having so many schools starting at 7:15am next year?
- Currently, 20% of BPS students begin school before 7:30. Today, many of these are secondary school students, something that the new policy seeks to change by shifting as many secondary schools as possible to later start times. Next year, the percentage of BPS students starting school before 7:30 will stay the same, at 20%. Much of that will be made up of elementary school students, again aligned with our new policy to shift more elementary schools to earlier dismissal times.
- We considered adding a new constraint that did not allow any elementary school to start before 7:30am, which is more restrictive than our current policy. If we added this constraint, many more elementary school students would continue to dismiss after 4pm and many high schools would begin before 8:00am -- factors that we are trying to avoid in the new policy. This constraint would also lead to about $5-7 million more in costs than the model for start times which was chosen for the district, thereby reducing significantly the potential for reinvesting in schools.
Why did some schools' start times change by as much as two hours or more?
- Not allowing schools to change by two hours or more would have prevented us from achieving the policy goals we pursued: Many elementary schools would have had to remain at dismissal times after 4pm; many high schools would have had to remain at start times before 8am; and the potential for reinvestment into schools would have largely evaporated.
- The previous policy also required a similar level of change, dictating that schools would shift to new start times every five years, from 7:30 to 8:30 to 9:30, and then back to 7:30. This meant that every five years many schools would need to change their start times by two hours, far more in fact than the number of such schools next year.
- In each of our community meetings throughout the fall, we asked people what they thought of minimizing change in the system, as a potential priority for the district to consider. There was very little reaction to this in every one of our public engagements, as people strongly supported other factors instead.
It seems that this policy was focused on high schools moving to later times. If so then why did so many elementary schools need to change their times, especially since high schools do not require busing?
- Approximately 25% of BPS high school students are assigned to yellow bus service each day: 6% from transportation accommodations specific to the students' needs and 19% from shuttle bus service to bring students to their high schools from MBTA stations and similar locations. This amounts to 612 bus trips everyday. Therefore, we cannot shift high schools to different times without accounting for the impact on our transportation system.
- This effort was not only focused on high schools, but on elementary schools as well. Because of this, some elementary schools had to shift their times in order to allow other elementary schools to move as well.
My new bell time doesn’t work for me, what can I do?
- For students who are eligible for transportation and where we have capacity on our buses, BPS will provide transportation from off-site, before-school programs to school; and from school to off-site, after-school programs.
- Your school likely has before- or after- school programming. More than 90% of all BPS schools have after-school programing and 90% of BPS schools starting after 9:00 AM have a before-school program. Additionally, we will continue to work with programs and schools to expand available before- and after-school programming across BPS.
- We realize that in some cases, the only option for families may be to change schools. For more information on this process, please visit a BPS Welcome Center, its website, bostonpublicschools.org/welcomeservices, or call 617-635-9010.
Does this change my school’s length of day or my transportation eligibility?
What percentage of secondary schools and students start their day before 8:00 AM today? What percentage will do so next year, through this policy change?
- Currently 27% of secondary students start at or after 8:00 AM. Under this policy, 94% of secondary students will start at or after 8:00 AM.
What percentage of elementary schools and students end their day after 4:00 PM today? What percentage will do so next year, through this policy change?
- Currently 33% of elementary school students are getting out after 4:00 PM. With this policy change, we expect that number to go down to 15%.
Despite the policy, my elementary school will dismiss after 4:00 PM next year. Why is that?
- It is not possible to optimize for the range of priorities we are trying to achieve without continuing to have some schools dismissing after 4:00 PM, although the number of schools with a 9:30-4:10 schedule will decrease next year from 26 to 5. Additionally, we have heard from many members of the BPS community that they prefer late start and end times and therefore would appreciate this element of choice.
How many schools will have changes to their start times next school year?
- 105 schools will have changes to their bell times.
How many different start times will there be after these changes go into effect?
- Currently, most schools begin at three different times: 7:30 AM, 8:30 AM, and 9:30 AM. Under the new policy, schools will begin at 10 different times between 7:15 AM and 9:30 AM.
Will families still have multiple start times to choose from when making school choices for their children?
- Yes, we have tried to ensure that parents will have a broad array of school start time options. We have also worked to ensure a range of start time options in every neighborhood.