In April 2018, the Business Advisory Council (BAC) reported to the school board that moving high school and junior high start times later (ideally to 8:30 am) could provide significant health benefits to teens, whose circadian rhythms naturally lead them to a later bedtime and a physical drive to sleep later in the morning. Studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and even experiential data from school districts that have moved their start times support the benefits of later start times for teen students.
The district understands this data, and our desire would be to move start times; however, finding a solution that takes into account the variables that are specific to the Milford School District is not straightforward.
The administration’s first step was to evaluate basic bus route configurations. We currently have a three-tier busing system, which means the buses go out to pick up students and deliver them to school three times: first to the HS/JH, second to some of the elementaries, and third to the other elementaries. Cost for this three-tier system is $5.2 million in 2018-19.
To change the HS/JH start time and still get all elementary students to school at a reasonable time would require adding additional buses and compressing the three tiers into two. Unfortunately, this is extremely expensive: +$2.2 million additional based on this year’s costs. The administration and board do not feel this is the best place to invest our community’s limited funds.
Other options are much more complicated and will take more time to identify and research. The administration is in this process, but in the meantime, administrators have developed a partial solution that will be offered next year to juniors and seniors. If it is effective, this option can be expanded; in addition, at that point, new options may be available.
Next year’s partial solution is a new “blended learning” class that will be offered first period for juniors and seniors who are on track to graduate and have their own transportation to school. A blended learning class combines online work with limited face-to-face interaction with the teacher, so students will not be required to be at school most days until second bell. Students may complete their online work on their own time, which will also help them learn self-management skills crucial for college classes that are often completely or partially online.
For first semester 2019-2020, the first period blended learning class will be Financial Literacy; a second semester class is yet to be identified, but it will be another elective course.
In addition, best practices for limiting homework and teaching all students time management skills will be continued.
In the meantime, we will continue to research and investigate options with the hope of finding a way to push back school start time for more (ideally all) JH/HS students.