Recommendation 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. 

Sincerely, 

 

 

Dr. Will Stout

Superintendent

Owen J. Roberts School District