Jeffco Public Schools will make middle, high school start times later starting next school year

Jeffco bus fleet.
Posted at 9:03 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 23:03:44-05

DENVER — Jefferson County Public Schools announced it is overhauling the start and end times at many of its schools for next school year, allowing middle and high school students to start later in the morning.

The district’s plan, called “Healthy & Equitable Start & End Times,” will also work to close gaps in classroom time between Jeffco schools.

The initiative will “create consistency in instructional time, and increase transportation efficiency and reliability to best serve all Jeffco students,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said in a statement.

Currently, older students in middle and high school often have the earlier start times, despite research showing that they learn better, stay healthier and keep better attendance and graduation rates with later start times that allow them to get better sleep.

“One minute, you’re in elementary school and you’re waking your kiddo at 8:00, 8:15 in the morning,” said Katie Winner, a parent at Drake Middle School who has served on a task force pushing for new start times. “Then for some of us, you go to middle school and you’re waking your kid at 6:00 AM for 7:00 school, and you’re kind of like, ‘Wait, what? How did that happen?’”

Beyond broad health and academic benefits, the district said the new schedules will help close gaps in learning between different schools. With the current staggered start times, Jeffco Public Schools said some students are graduating with an extra half a school year of learning time, compared to their peers at other schools.

“That means they’re getting less time in the classroom, and that can make a difference for some kids,” Winner said.

Because Jeffco, like many school districts, is currently experiencing a bus driver shortage, individual school times will still be slightly different for the time being.

Planned start and end times for the 2023-2024 school year will be posted on each school's individual website.. Because changes to the schedule will likely impact many families, particularly with working parents, the district said it is working to adapt transportation and childcare options.

“Change is not easy, and we recognize that any shift in schedules has a real impact for families and educators across the District,” Dr. LeBlanc-Esparza said. “Communicating new start and end times nine months prior to implementation will hopefully support our families and educators in having enough time to transition to a new schedule. We will update the Jeffco community as we continue to collaborate on these topics, and we appreciate your grace and partnership as we navigate these changes together.”