GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. – The Cherry Creek School District is looking to shake up school start times in an effort give students a boost in the classroom.
It would be a dramatic change.
“The answer to why we’re doing it is pretty easy,” said Dr. Scott Siegfried, associate superintendent at CCSD. “It’s good for kids and that’s what we’re about.
Elementary schools would start at 7:55 a.m. and be dismissed at 2:40 p.m., creating a 6-hour, 45-minute school day. Currently, elementary students have a 6-hour, 30-minute school day that starts at 9 a.m. and dismisses at 3:30 p.m.
Middle schools would start at 8:50 a.m. and dismiss at 3:45 p.m., which would create a 6-hour, 55-minute school day. Middle schools currently start anywhere between 7:50 and 8:10 a.m. and dismiss between 2:50 p.m. and 3:10 p.m., amounting to a 7-hour school day.
High schools would start at 8:15 a.m. and dismiss at 3:30 p.m., creating a 7-hour, 15-minute school day. They currently start at 7:10 a.m. and dismiss between 2:30 p.m. and 2:51 p.m. depending on the school, creating either a 7-hour, 20-minute school day or a 7-hour, 40-minute day for students depending on the school.
Siegfried said the district began studying the issue two years ago, as part of the community-wide Cherry Creek 2021 process.
“We started looking at structures in place that were hindering learning,” he said. “Start times was one of them.”
“As student go through puberty, and become adolescents, their bodies change,” he said. “Their circadian rhythms change. Regardless of how hard you try, you can’t get them to go to bed earlier. Their body just won’t let them. That’s just the science behind it.”
So the district has proposed pushing the high school start time back an hour.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Cherry Creek High School freshman Jimmy Honeyfield. “I love to get my sleep in, so I can be energetic and have a great day.”
Fellow 9th grader Charlie Simonton expressed a similar sentiment.
“Having that extra 30 to 45 minutes of sleep…helps you throughout the whole day,” he said.
Their friend Gary Cutter said he won’t be getting much extra sleep.
“I’m a morning person,” he said, “so I’ll just get an extra cup of coffee in.”
Siegfried said 25,574 people responded to a survey on the matter. He said a large majority, 73 percent, said start and dismissal times were very or relatively important.
Some people not looking forward to change
The survey shows broad support for the proposed change, but not everyone is excited about it.
“I kind of have to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, which I am not able to do,” said Cottonwood Elementary student Anaha Prabhakaran.
“For her, it’s going to be really tough,” said Anaha’s mom, Preethi Mohandas, “because she has to get up early and she’s not a morning person.”
Mohandas told Denver7 that it will be much easier for her high school age son.
“He is a morning person,” she said, “so he can just get up and do some of his work (before heading to class.)”
Siegfried said Cherry Creek contacted other districts around the country who have transitioned to similar schedules.
“We visited Fairfax County Schools in Virginia,’ he said, “and we talked on the phone with Wayzata Public Schools in Minnesota.”
He said Wayzata officials told them, “it was the right thing to do,” and that “high school students were less crabby in the morning.”
Siegfried said the district is trying to mitigate concerns for parents who need to be at work, before their middle school students would have to be at school, (an hour later than the current schedule.)
“We’re going to open the Middle School cafeterias at 8 a.m., the current start time for Middle Schools, so parents can drop off their students. They’ll be supervised and have breakfast and they can have a study hall.”
The Assoc. Superintendent said the main reason school districts have staggered start times is transportation.
Cherry Creek doesn’t have enough buses to pick up Elementary, Middle School and High School students at the same time.
“We have to stagger the start and end of day, so that one bus can go to each level in the morning and the afternoon,” he said. “That saves significant funds.”