'The challenge is adults,' Nevada State Board of Education revisits later high school start times

‘The challenge is adults,’ Nevada State Board of Education revisits later high school start times

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Nevada State Board of Education (NSBE) revisited the topic of beginning high school classes later in the morning, with slight progress made to reach that goal.

The board meeting gathered superintendents of Nevada’s 17 school districts on Thursday afternoon for the topic that’s been discussed for years. Board officials and superintendents at the meeting indicated a vast interest in doing so.

“It has been research-proven,” NSBE President Felicia Ortiz said during the meeting.

“We know the research,” NSBE member Summer Stephens said.

“The research is very clear,” Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara said.

A “public health issue” is what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls insufficient sleep in adolescents. Additionally, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teenagers should receive eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

But students expressed that it is increasingly difficult to do, due to a multitude of factors. A majority of CCSD’s 58 high schools begin at 7:00 am, joining just 10% of schools nationwide that begin before 7:30 am.

Malia Poblete, a high school junior and NSBE student member, said she averages four hours of sleep a night after balancing school, extracurriculars, and a job.

“We all will start doing homework at like 10 o’clock at night, and then we have late nights, and then, when we wake up, it’s all over again,” Poblete said to the board.

The research considered during the topic showed later school start times yield better mental and physical health, improved academic outcomes, reduced risks of car accidents and injuries, and less tardiness among students and staff.

“It can also decrease the violence and the behavioral incidences, therefore increasing the safety and positive climate on our campuses,” NSBE Member Katie Dockweiler said. “One of the reasons our staff could possibly be leaving is the stressful working conditions, so this would be another tool to increase or improve those working conditions.”

So, why not shift the morning bell?

“The challenge is adults,” President Ortiz said.

Getting students to and from school with later start and end times poses logistical problems for both rural and metro districts alike, board members say. CCSD, for example, shifted many of its start times this school year due to a shortage of 250 bus drivers, said, Superintendent Jara.

“Some of the larger systems that have this opportunity have a very robust regional transportation from the municipalities. That’s not here in Nevada,” Superintendent Jara said.

It joins a list of other conflicts, including teacher pay, staff retention, parent work schedules, and after-school programs. The center of all of these conflicts: funding, board members say.

The item on this matter ended with a speech from President Ortiz about requesting increased funding from state legislators during the upcoming legislative session next year.

The Education Law Center’s 2022 Making the Grade report gave Nevada public schools an “F” in funding level, funding distribution, and funding effort.

Nevada was the only state in the nation to receive an “F” in all three categories.

But, the president and other board members acknowledge that a universal start time for all schools in the state poses its own set of concerns.

Ortiz directed the topic to be “workshopped” over the next several months with school families and other stakeholders to determine what the best option would be to address the conflict of beginning school so early. 

“Are there opportunities for us to pilot programs at certain places? Maybe multiple start times? Bus kids start at a different time than the nearby kids?” NSBE Vice President Mark Newburn said. “What kind of choices can we give the families? What could we do?”

However, a date or timeframe to workshop this possibility was not designated during the Thursday meeting.

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