OJR School Start Time & Student Sleep Health
Update from Dr. Stout for 2023-2024 School Year
Dear OJRSD Community,
Over the last few months our school district has pursued the opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of our students, explore best practices that support classroom-learning environments and develop strategies that foster greater academic achievement from students. As you may already be aware, one of our most critical topics of discussion in the wake of COVID-19 was school start times.
From the onset of these community discussions my preference was, and remains, to make a recommendation to the Board of School Directors prior to the end of the year. After careful consideration, on Monday, November 14, I plan to recommend to our School Board that Owen J. Roberts School District continue using its current school start time schedule and not proceed with any changes to school start times for the 2023-2024 school year.
Making this recommendation does not come without difficulty. One of my top priorities as superintendent is to address the academic welfare and health of our students. After thoroughly researching a later school start time for adolescent students, talking to sleep science experts and other superintendents, as well as witnessing the benefit of changing start times first-hand, I still firmly believe that later school start times are in the best interest of OJR secondary school students.
However, before making any recommendation to change school start times, I must first take the district’s operational logistics and staffing needs into consideration. Like many school districts, OJR faces a severe shortage of bus drivers. Any proposed school start time change will require an additional 5 to 7 bus drivers, on top of current recruitment efforts to address existing driver shortages. I simply cannot in good conscience start our district down a path to later school start times without knowing we have the transportation staff in place to ensure we are able to deliver on the promise of better student outcomes. To invest valuable time and resources into changing school times, without first addressing driver shortages, is irresponsible to the families we serve and to our students.
I want to be upfront with the community by letting you know that I also plan to share with the School Board my desire to continue pursuing a path toward later school start times for our students. As part of those ongoing efforts, OJR’s leadership team will prioritize addressing our bus driver shortages, and should we address that challenge, we will then re-visit adjusting school start times to better support student achievement, as well as support improved student health outcomes. In addition, I also want to let families know that in the near future we will share information about community resources designed to help families monitor and improve the amount of sleep students receive.
Thank you once again for your patience, feedback and participation in this important process. I want to especially thank the students, parents, staff, and community members who served on the school start time committee and assisted us in this valuable work. I’ve heard from many constituents, on both sides of this issue, and I appreciate the time you took to communicate with us via email or by attending our recent public meetings. Your insight is incredibly valuable to me in my role as superintendent.
I look forward to your ongoing partnership and support of our students as we continue to enjoy an amazing school year.
Dr. Will Stout
Owen J. Roberts School District
Welcome to Owen J. Roberts School District’s web portal containing valuable resources related to school start times and student sleep health.
Owen J. Roberts has conducted extensive research focused on school start times and student sleep health, as well as solicited multiple rounds of feedback on the subject from students, families, staff and the community in the form of surveys, presentations and meetings. Now, OJR and the community have an invaluable opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of our students and develop best practices that effectively support classroom learning environments and foster greater academic achievement.
Beginning September 2022, the OJR School Start Time Planning Committee will review research and survey findings, discuss benefits and challenges, as well as look at costs and other factors with the goal of developing a formal recommendation on school start times to present to the greater community.
Here you will find an overview of the Start Time Planning Committee, research and expertise that’s driven our community discussions, factors that will be taken into consideration and better understand the timeline for upcoming recommendations and next steps.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us – email@example.com.
Committee Scope and Purpose
The School Start Time Planning Committee includes members of the OJR Board of School Directors, teachers, administrators, parents, community members and student representatives. The main focus of the Committee is to assist the OJR administration and School Board in determining the best path forward on the subject of school start times for students. Members are expected to provide feedback on the final recommendation for consideration by the School Board.
School Start Time Planning Committee Meeting
Thursday, September 22, 6:00 p.m.
OJR High School – LGI Room
Purpose: Review past information (also available on this website), evaluate benefits and challenges, help formulate focus areas and anticipate questions for a community forum.
School Start Time Community Forum
Thursday, October 6, 6:00 p.m.
OJR Middle School – LGI Room
Purpose: Present background information, research and options to the public, discuss challenges and questions identified by the committee. Listen to subject matter experts, including subject matter experts and neighboring school districts that adjusted their school start times. Listen to community feedback and questions.
School Start Time Planning Committee Meeting
Thursday, October 20, 6:00 p.m.
OJR High School – LGI Room
Purpose: Review committee and community questions, including those from the forum, and develop materials to address any questions or clarify areas of uncertainty. Develop a recommendation and proposal regarding school start times – including a final recommendation on whether or not to move forward with any adjustments or modifications.
OJR School Board Work Session
Date – Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.
Location - OJR High School – LGI Room
Purpose: A final recommendation to proceed or not proceed with an adjustment to school start times will be presented to the OJR Board of School Directors.
OJR School Board Meeting
Date - Monday, November 28, 2022
Location - OJR High School - LGI Room
Purpose: The OJR School Board will have the opportunity to vote on the final recommendation.
Future Meetings – TBD
Depending on the final recommendations of the School Start Time Committee and the final decision of the OJR School Board, future community meetings may be scheduled in 2023.
Included below is background information and impact reports OJR shared with the public as part of ongoing discussions about school start times and student health.
Agendas, Minutes & Presentations
The Impact of School Start Times on OJR Students
Why School Start Times Matter
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need, but most American adolescents start school too early. According to the CDC’s 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools in the U.S. started before 8:30 a.m.
In addition, research shows that as few as 1-in-10 teenagers in the U.S. get the recommended amount of sleep on a daily basis, resulting in a dramatic impact on critical brain development during adolescence. Experts point to the negative implications of sleep deprivation in teenagers as significant contributing factors to mood regulation disorders, decreased critical reasoning skills, declining physical and mental health, and diminished classroom performance.
In recent years, many school districts across the nation have begun adjusting their school start times to align with scientific research suggesting that teenage students, especially those in high school, require more sleep than existing school bell times have previously afforded them. As a result, these school districts have seen significant increases to subject matter retention and student academic performance, experienced improvements to student mental and physical health, and seen the positive benefits to student behavior and safety.
Expert Opinion & Scientific Studies
OJR’s research on the subject of school start times includes a wealth of sources from subject matter experts, sleep scientists, consortiums, public education entities and more. Below is a collection of these resources.
What the Experts Say
Dr. Wendy Troxel is a Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist at RAND and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders across the lifespan. Her research is funded by the National Heart Lung Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. Troxel's research focuses on the interface between sleep, social environment and health, as well as the implications for public policy. Troxel has received several awards and honors for her research from national and international scientific societies, and her work has been published in top-tier medical and psychological journals. CLICK HERE to watch her TED Talk on why school should start later for teens.
Adolescent Sleep, Health, and School Start Times: The National Conference featured presentations by internationally-recognized experts on issues of utmost importance to the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of adolescents. An overview of this information can be viewed HERE.
The National Sleep Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide easy-to-use charts with insight about recommended amounts of sleep for different age groups. Both organization’s charts can accessed below:
Scientific and Peer-Reviewed Studies
Numerous studies have looked at the issue of insufficient sleep of adolescents and young adults, including comprehensive studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, National Sleep Foundation and others. Below are summaries of some of those studies, along with key findings:
Scientific Articles and News Coverage
Coverage of sleep requirements for adolescents and young adults continues to be of interest to the scientific community and important to the general public. Below is an essential reading lists of articles and findings:
Research from Chester County Intermediate Unit
CCIU’s Student Forum Delayed Start Time Committee (DSTC) was created to assess the potential benefits and obstacles of delaying high school start times. Its goal was to determine whether or not pushing back the start time of high schools within Chester County would have a positive impact on students, and if the positive impact would warrant further investigation into strategies to overcome potential obstacles to its implementation.
Ultimately, due to the overwhelming positive effects and with the recommendations for overcoming potential obstacles, the DSTC recommended the Chester County Intermediate Board and district school boards strongly consider implementation of a delayed high school start time for Chester County schools. Below is a collection of the surveys and research that went into that recommendation: