Start Times Committee narrows focus to shifting start and end time of high school day

Transportation study to be conducted

A district committee established last year has been exploring the potential for a later high school start time based on the benefits that have been associated with more sleep for adolescents. The School Start Times Committee is comprised of parents, students and faculty members, and is co-chaired by parent Deanna Bouton and Assistant High School Principal Anthony Malizia.

Over the course of the last year, the committee has looked at research into the benefits of a later start time and considered how it might be accomplished in Niskayuna, including reconfiguring the high school schedule or shifting the start and end time of the day.

Given the complexity and potential impacts of changing the structure of the high school schedule, the committee has decided that it is best to examine the possibility of simply pushing back the high school start time and end time. This would leave the same schedule and current length of the day intact.

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., said that the science and research make it clear that there are benefits to a later high school start time. The questions that need to be answered, he said, are: What would it take to make the shift in Niskayuna in terms of school schedules, operations and other aspects of the student experience? Would the benefits outweigh any costs or tradeoffs?

Shifting the Day

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Currently, buses begin dropping students off at Niskayuna High School shortly after 7 a.m. and the day starts at 7:40 a.m.

The committee has discussed the possibility that the most feasible way to move the high school start time to a later point in the morning and the end time later in the afternoon would be collapse the district’s three-tier bus system into a two-tier system.

The next step is detailed transportation study to see if this is feasible or if there are other alternatives. The district has arranged for BOCES to conduct this study this year.

What does it mean to collapse the three-tier bus schedule into two tiers?

Currently, high school runs take place first in the morning, followed by elementary and then middle school runs. Moving to a two-tier system would mean combining the middle and high school runs: Elementary would go first, middle and high school students would be picked up on the same runs and then dropped off at their respective schools.

How might this enable a later high school start?

Middle school currently starts at 8:40 a.m. If high school students can be dropped off before middle school students, they could potentially gain a half hour or more.

What will the BOCES study focus on?

  • Is it possible to combine middle and high school runs?
  • What would the arrival time window be for the high school?
  • What impact might that have on the elementary or middle school start times? (Starting the elementary day much earlier than the current time is not seen as desirable.)
  • Are there potential alternatives to a two-tier system that would enable a shift?
  • What would be the financial costs, or savings, associated with the shift?

In early May, BOCES will be convening stakeholder focus groups to provide feedback to inform the study.

The committee is also working to assess how a shift to a later dismissal time would affect athletics at the high school and middle school music at the high school in the morning.

The earliest any change will take effect is September 2020.

The committee’s goal is to provide a recommendation to the Board of Education in June, allowing time for community information sharing and engagement prior to a decision and potential implementation.

Coming Soon: Share your thoughts

In late April/early May, the district will conduct a community conversation on start times via the “Thoughtexchange” platform. Thoughtexchange is an online system that enables members of the school community to respond to an open-ended question on a given topic, consider and assign stars to ideas shared by others, and learn what’s important to the group. The link to this “exchange” will be shared via our School Messenger system and the district website. Please plan to participate!