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Eye of the Tiger

District may consider start time change

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In the wake of other local districts either moving to a later start time or considering doing so, Roseville Joint Union High School District may look at the possibility of following suit. For RJUHSD, however, any actual move to alter start time would not come for at least one more year.

“We’re doing a major effort right now to look at our grading practices, and that’s sort of our big initiative this year,” RJUHSD superintendent Ron Severson said. “Next year, once we get that put to bed, it’s going to be a focus.”

Davis Joint Unified School District has already pushed their schools’ start times back. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior pushed its start time back 25 minutes last year, followed by the Davis Senior High and Da Vinci Charter Academy High Schools that will push theirs back by 30 minutes for the 2017-18 school year. In a board packet from March 28, San Juan Unified School District covered a plan that would delay school start
times five minutes later per year for the next three years, affecting most of its elementary, middle and high schools.

According to Severson, however, change as small as the one SJUSD is mulling over deviates from RJUHSD’s vision for start times in the future.

“To change it by 15 or 20 minutes to just look like we’re concerned about that is just something we’re not really interested in,” Severson said. “We really could start school at nine o’clock – that would be a substantial difference in the sleep pattern for an average teenager.”

Severson believes it’s particularly difficult for the RJUHSD to adopt a later start time because the district – with high school jurisdiction only – lends buses to the primary schools of the Roseville City School District.

“We provide transportation to Roseville City [School District] so anything we do has to be coordinated with them,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier if you’re in Davis or in Rocklin where you have a unified school district and you can control all of those things yourselves.”

Roseville High School principal David Byrd says the faculty and families of the RCSD would feel the tremor of shifting high school bell schedules.

“Our bus system is used by some of our feeder schools. We would be going to them and saying ‘hey, we have to make a change, we have to blow up your world somehow, some way because we gotta pick up your
kids later,” Byrd said. “So it winds up impacting other people.”

According to Byrd, a new start time would delay extracurricular schedules to pair with the apparent issue of transportation.

“It seems after-school programs – whether it’s athletics, drama, band, everybody that sticks around afterwards and does some kind of a practice – they’re going to get bumped back and pushed back,” he said. “Those two obstacles I think are probably the two biggest obstacles – at least when this conversation comes up – that I hear people talking about.”

For athletics, which often have multiple levels for each sport sharing practice facilities, a later start time could prove problematic.

“The big thing that I foresee being the problem is practice time,” RHS athletic director Emily Dodds said. “I think plans need to be in place in order to make sure that it’s a smooth transition and that we’re not losing any time out on the field.”

Dodds feels these plans must accommodate for more practice time slots in order to maintain game time consistency.

“The only way I see it happening – and successfully – is either having practice times in the morning, and/or set up a really effective athletic P.E. that last period of the day so practices can start or the game times can remain the same,” Dodds said.

Byrd also acknowledged the potential in a ‘zero period’ that would aid students before the opening bell.

“You look at how hard it would be to do a ‘zero period’ right now, we’d have to start that at like 6:30 in the morning – I mean, that’s practically impossible,” Byrd said. “If you’re able to start at eight o’clock, you’re able to maybe do a ‘zero period’ around seven o’clock and that’s a little more reasonable. By doing a ‘zero period,’ that creates some unique opportunities in your schedule to help kids out.”

For Dodds, however, a ‘zero period’ would be a must.

“There would have to be [an athletic ‘zero period’], because I don’t think that we can accommodate every sport to get the sufficient practice time that they need,” Dodds said. “We have to plan – if we do have a ‘zero period’ – what does that look like for our P.E. department and what kind of facilities are open at that time.”

Byrd admitted RHS has a particularly early start time, understanding those who may complain about the early rise everyday.

“I see that it can be a little early for kids and early for families trying to get their kids to school,” Byrd said. “When I first got here, I came from a school that started at eight o’clock in the morning, so when I was like, ‘wow, we start at [7:40] over at Roseville High School’ it was a little bit of a ‘woah, that’s different, that’s a little unique.’”

District psychologist Shelly Davis views getting enough sleep not as a question of when students get their sleep, but if they make it a priority.

“Overall it’s a matter of the number of hours that they’re sleeping each day, not necessarily what time they’re waking up, unless it affects what time they’re going to bed,” Davis said. “As long as they’re getting enough hours of sleep per night, then they should be fine – even if it’s getting up extra early.”

Davis Senior High School junior Finn Boire believes that students may wind up back in the same sleep habits regardless of the actual start time.

“I think that people will probably get more sleep, but almost certainly there’s going to be students who take it as a reason to stay up later,” Boire said. “I think that I’ll take advantage of it because it’ll let me wake up later than I normally do.”

According to Boire, the change garnered divided opinions at DSHS, with him ultimately siding against their new start time.

“It’s sort of split into two camps,” Boire said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s the best course of action.”

In spite of the many obstacles in the way of ringing a later opening bell, Severson stated the RJUHSD is determined to consider any change that would benefit students.

“We’re very interested in this topic,” Severson said. “We think anything that’s going to improve the health of our teenagers – help [them] learn better – we’re in favor.”

Byrd expressed optimism about any potential later start time and its ratification.

“Within the next year or two – I don’t know. Within the foreseeable future – I think it’s a possibility, I honestly do,” Byrd said. “We gotta do it the right way, communicate it the right way, and give people time to prepare for it if we’re going to make it happen.”

Dodds sees the change could be beneficial but should be executed with care.

“I think it could be a big advantage,” Dodds said. “I think everybody needs to be on board and I think we really have to have a laid-out plan if this is going to be successful.”
Severson says the district intent is on changing school dynamic for the better.

“We really believe that we need to offer substantial change to sleep patterns,” Severson said. “If we’re going to do this we are going to do it right and have it make an impact for the kids.”

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