District developing research-based start times for 2021-22 school year

Eden Prairie Schools' Start and End Times Task Force recommended the district start planning school bell times for 2021-22 that ensure high school students start later in the morning. Superintendent Dr. Josh Swanson discussed with the School Board Nov. 23 the district's next step following this recommendation.
Last year, the district began a study of school times, surveyed parents/guardians and convened a 19-member task force of parents, staff and community members to make a recommendation. The charge of the task force was not to develop specific times, but to recommend a guiding direction for the district, if any. The task force considered parent/guardian input, heard from experts in sleep science, and consulted with administrators in districts that moved their high school start times later. Some of the key points in the research are:

  • Most teens don’t get enough sleep because their biological sleep clocks have changed with adolescence. It is harder for them to go to bed at night, and they end up sleep deprived when they rise early for school.
  • Sleep deprivation in adolescents is related to increased risk-taking, impaired judgment and increased vehicle crashes.
  • Increased sleep is related to improved attendance, graduation rates, as well as reduced depression.

A summary of the task force's work, including links to the research, is posted to the district's start/end time web page.

Dr. Swanson explained that Eden Prairie Schools has interconnecting issues as it looks at school bell times. As part of Designing Pathways, Central Middle School will welcome 6th graders to its building next fall. The school also will begin using a new, eight-period schedule. The new middle school schedule provides more choice for students and makes curriculum connections to high school courses. Current 5th and 6th grade families will learn about the schedule as their students begin registering for courses early next year.
The new schedule, moving 6th graders to the middle school and the addition of preschool to all the elementary schools, all provide additional reasons to review start times and transportation across the district. Dr. Swanson told the board that any plan around school start times and transportation must be operationally feasible, must align with the research, and be cost-effective.
Planned start times will be presented to the public after the Dec. 14 School Board meeting, with a period for parents/guardians and the community to review and make comments. The superintendent and district staff will take the input and consider revisions before announcing in January final school times for the 2021-22 school year.