2021-22 School Start/End Times
The ACSC Board of School Trustees dedicated multiple meetings to considering models for school start and end times for the 2021-22 school year. The models were each designed to optimize student growth, support teacher collaboration, and seek transportation efficiencies to address our ongoing bus driver shortage.
The board made two decisions at the February 8 board meeting.
First, they voted unanimously to affirm the necessity of adopting a model. “We all agree it’s necessary to do something about this issue,” said Secretary Gregory Dana. “And we agree this is the year to do it.”
Second, the board voted 3-2 to adopt model 5a. This model places Avon Intermediate School East and West in Tier 1. Tier 2 contains Avon High School and Cedar, Sycamore, and Maple Elementary Schools. Avon Middle School North and South and Hickory, Pine Tree, and River Birch Elementary Schools will move to Tier 3.
“Each of us has spent a lot of time and effort to find what’s best for our students,” said Board President Kim Woodward. The Board and district leaders devoted many hours to the issue, communicating with staff and parents, researching, and pouring over facts and figures. That the vote was not unanimous reflects the staff and community feedback the Board took into consideration. Woodward said, “We are not 100% united in our decision tonight. But that doesn’t mean we are not absolutely unified in our commitment to the students and educators in our corporation.”
Any decision like this is difficult as it affects people's schedules. Board members and district leaders heard ample feedback, both for and against each of the models. “Although we realize there is no perfect option, and we cannot make everyone happy, I believe the schedule we choose will be most beneficial to the greatest number of children in our corporation,” said Vice President Cynthia Simmons. “I am hopeful that once everyone has the time to adjust to the change, that this will be a great solution for our students, staff, and families.”
Thank you to everyone who invested in this process.
Why adjust school start/end times?
Updating school start and end times will create a scenario that is more conducive to student achievement and more efficient for district operations.
The Process: Corporation leaders conducted a thorough process of research and evaluation, weighing feedback from multiple sources.
- District leaders considered multiple scheduling options and narrowed the field to three unique options.
- Options were presented to representatives from each level of schools in Avon. The schedule shown on this page was their clear consensus.
- The schedule was shared with the Board of School Trustees at their Dec. 14 meeting for their feedback.
- Parents/caregivers and school employees share feedback to optimize the schedule.
- If approved by the School Board, the final schedule would go into effect at the start of the 2021-22 school year.
The Factors: Several factors make this an optimal time to consider changes to school start and end times for the 2021-22 school year. And, doing so at the beginning of 2021 gives all of our families, their students, and our staff seven months to plan ahead.
Updated elementary structure
Staff collaboration time
When our incredible educators have ample time to work together, educational outcomes improve. Moving to a new schedule will eliminate the need for monthly 1-hour delays.
Improving our chronic – and worsening – bus-driver shortage is critical to ensure we can continue providing transportation. Depending on the three-tier transportation system chosen, we can decrease the number of drivers needed by 7-20. This will allow us to save significant funds that would be utilized, in turn, to update our aging fleet.
Recent boundary adjustment discussions lead naturally to this conversation about school start and end times for the 2021-22 school year.
In December, the Board of School Trustees approved K-4 boundary adjustments for the 2021-22 school year. These adjustments will accomplish several objectives. Most importantly, they enable us to provide a more equitable experience for our elementary students. They also enable us to accommodate the transition of White Oak Elementary into a dedicated preschool. Finally, these boundary adjustments prepare us for future population growth. (Learn more here.)
District leaders evaluated multiple school start- and end-time options with representatives from each level of schools in Avon – elementary, intermediate, middle, and high school. This group’s clear consensus is the schedule that was shared with the Board of School Trustees and, in turn, shared with the community. Superintendent Dr. Wyndham’s full Dec. 14 presentation of all three options is available on the corporation website.
Leaving the schedule as-is is an option. However, the merits of an adjusted start- and end-time schedule and the three-tier transportation option are fueling this discussion for three primary reasons:
1. These adjustments address the reality of our current bus driver shortage.
2. These adjustments enable us to renew our aging transportation fleet more rapidly.
Depending on the level, between 60 and 80 percent of Avon’s 10,000 students rely on our fleet to get to and from school. Operating in three tiers would allow us to transport students using fewer drivers because all drivers would be able to drive three tiers. Even before the pandemic, finding enough CDL-licensed bus drivers was a challenge and shows no signs of improving. A three-tier system allows us to decrease the number of CDL-licensed drivers while phasing out the older buses in our fleet in a timelier manner.
A three-tier system requires 15 to 20 fewer drivers and fewer bus aides. Approximately 69% of the projected savings comes from salaries and benefits. That figure is estimated to be $630,000. The remainder of the $900,000 savings would come from reduced bus insurance costs and savings from replacing fewer buses annually. While not included in these estimates, there will be additional savings from decreased fuel costs and bus maintenance costs on our aging fleet.
Currently, 28 of our district’s buses are between 15 and 16 years old. Eighty-two buses – over half of the fleet – are 12 years old or older. While all our buses are safe and pass state inspections each year, due to property tax caps it is not possible for us to retire old buses and purchase new ones – they cost $135,000 each – at the rate they need to be replaced. This savings would enable us to update the fleet in a timelier manner given the constraints of property tax caps.
The 2018 referendum did not impact transportation operations and the district continues to be impacted significantly because of property tax caps (approximately $5 to $6 million per year). The 2018 referendum was targeted for specific purposes: improving class sizes, increasing compensation for teachers, and increasing student supports. It did not increase funding for operational expenses including construction projects, renovations, administrative positions, technology upgrades, or equipment. To operate effectively while maintaining a focus on student success, and to position the corporation to continue to do so into the future, it is important for district leaders to continually look for opportunities to steward district resources and maximize savings. The primary consideration is our chronic bus driver shortage, not cost savings.
Student enrollment is the largest factor in any school transportation system. Currently, there are 3,500 elementary-aged students in Avon Schools. We did review options that kept elementary schools on the same tier, however that would have required middle schools to start earlier.
The start and end times in the proposed schedule enable us to complete the school day between the hours of 7:20 a.m. and 4:10 p.m.
If the schedule were to be adjusted 20 minutes later in the morning to give Tier 1 students and families a slightly later start, many students in Tier 3 would not arrive home until after 5 p.m. If the schedule were to be adjusted 20 minutes the other direction to get Tier 3 students home earlier, Tier 1 students and families would have to rise even earlier and families would have to adjust to accommodate their students arriving home before 2 p.m.
Trusted national organizations recommend later school start times for adolescents – students in middle school and high school.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state:
Not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance. One of the reasons adolescents do not get enough sleep is early school start times.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes:
It may be strongly argued that both the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says:
While implementation may be complex … delaying school start times so that adolescents begin their instructional day later provides numerous benefits to the students and their broader community alike.
According to the APA, the potential benefits of later start times are:
- Increased attendance rates
- Decrease in disciplinary action
- Decrease in student-involved car accidents
- Increase in student GPA
- Increase in state assessment scores
- Increase in college admissions test scores
- Increase in student attention
- Decrease in student sleeping during instruction
- Increase in quality of student-family interaction
Meanwhile, the CDC points out that adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to:
- Be overweight.
- Not engage in daily physical activity.
- Suffer from symptoms of depression.
- Engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs.
- Perform poorly in school.
In summary, teenagers’ minds and bodies drive them to stay awake later in the night and sleep later in the morning whenever they have the opportunity. Elementary and intermediate students’ minds and bodies do not have the same requirements as teenagers, and they are more likely to go to sleep at an early hour. Therefore, they do not run the same risk of sleep deprivation as teens. Earlier start times are less likely to adversely affect elementary and intermediate students. The proposed schedule puts the intermediate schools at tier 1 and elementary schools at tiers 1, 2, and 3. The high school and middle schools are scheduled for later in the morning, in tiers 2 and 3.
Some high school and elementary bus stops are separate. In some instances, they are the same. In all instances, elementary and high school students ride separate buses.
Due to shorter walking distance requirements for elementary bus stop locations, many are in separate locations than the stops for high school students in the same tier. If parents or caregivers would prefer their elementary and high school students not to share a bus stop, they may elect to use a different bus stop. Avon students may board their bus at any of the stops along the route of their assigned bus as long as they do so consistently.
The proposed schedule shortens the school day by five minutes each day. These extra minutes would enable district leaders to adjust teachers’ schedules to allow for collaboration time and professional development outside of the hours when students are present. This allows for consistent school start and end times each day and eliminates the inconsistency of delayed start days.
Tier School Start/End Times 1 AIS East 7:25 a.m. - 2:10 p.m. AIS West 7:30 a.m. - 2:15 p.m. 2 Avon High School 8:25 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. Cedar Elem Sycamore Elem Maple Elem 3 AMS North 9:20 a.m. - 4:05 p.m. AMS South Hickory Elem 9:25 a.m. - 4:10 p.m. River Birch Elem Pine Tree Elem White Oak Preschool AM - 8:35 - 11:05 a.m. PM - 1:05 - 3:35 p.m.