Bell Times: The Challenge
In previous years, the Five Star District explored adjusting bell schedules to ensure sufficient instructional minutes were available at the elementary level in the event of multiple ‘snow days’ being called throughout the school year. Through a community-wide survey, students and families indicated a desire to explore more significant adjustments to bell schedules across all levels. Understanding that any changes to the bell schedules would likely require a significant financial investment from our district, it was determined that a more thorough engagement process, additional research and the development of multiple scenarios was needed before proposing any significant changes to the current transportation system.
Why Explore Bell Schedules:
- Adolescent brain research indicating a need for later start times at the middle and high school levels
- Recent adjustments to bell schedules across the nation and locally
- Advocacy from students and families (specifically high school) for a later start time
- Uninterrupted time for elementary teachers to plan and prepare for the day
- Maximize the efficiency of bus fleet and increase ridership
- Align to other districts' schedules for activities and programming
Outcomes for Exploring Bell Schedules:
- Create awareness for staff & community
- Prioritize the Key Considerations for any change to the current bell schedule
- Understand current and proposed bell schedules
- Understand costs associated with proposed bell schedule scenarios
- Collect feedback on proposed scenarios
- Determine if an adjustment to bell schedules or if the current bell schedule is best for the district
Any adjustment to bell times has complicated implications on various district operations; schedules for staff, students and families; and student access to before and after school opportunities. Therefore, in addition to surveys and community input, the Five Star District has tracked Key Considerations and how they would be impacted by various bell schedule scenarios:
- Key Consideration #1: That students get enough sleep to perform well in school
- Key Consideration #2: That students are released early enough to participate in athletics and activities without further impact to their class schedule
- Key Consideration #3: That students do not need to walk home in the dark during the winter months
- Key Consideration #4: That elementary teachers receive 45 minutes of uninterrupted planning time rather than split planning time between morning and afternoon
- Key Consideration #5: That older students are released early enough to supervise their younger sibling
- Key Consideration #6: That Adams 12 Five Star Schools only explores solutions that incur minimal financial costs
- Key Consideration #7: That high school students are released early enough to work in Before and After School Enrichment (BASE) opportunities
Further Background about Considerations:
Transportation: A major consideration when adjusting bell times is the impact on transportation for students. Schedules, pickups, dropoffs, costs of additional buses (if needed), cost of additional bus drivers (if needed) all play a part in the consideration of adjusting schedules.
- Additionally, thanks to the generosity of the Five Star community, our district is expanding to accommodate the Career and Technical Education (CTE) needs of our community. The opening of a second CTE campus, FutureForward at Washington Square, will require our district to provide participating high school students with transportation to multiple CTE facilities, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. These added transportation costs, combined with the need to modernize the current bus fleet with updated, more fuel-efficient buses, are also key considerations as we plan to meet the future transportation needs of our students.
- Elementary Planning Time: Our elementary teachers need time before the school day starts to develop lesson plans.
- Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- National Sleep Foundation
- School Start Times for Adolescents (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Moving Forward with Our Community
Given the challenge of addressing and solving each of our considerations, the goal was to involve our community through a robust process to determine the most appropriate bell time adjustment for the 2020-21 school year. Read about the Bell Times Engagement Process.