Stillwater School Board members discuss changing start times

Stillwater School Board to hear presentation at Tuesday meeting as members discuss changing start times

Stillwater School Board to hear presentation at Tuesday meeting as members discuss changing start times

The Stillwater School Board will be moving another step forward on Tuesday as they continue to decide whether to change the times classes start at schools across the district.

On Tuesday evening, Dr. Lisa Meltzer, who the district says is an expert on school start times, gave a presentation to the school board.

“When students get enough sleep, it definitely benefits them in the classroom. They’re better able to pay attention and be alert and be successful and graduate which is essential for success in life,” said Meltzer, a member of the Pediatric Sleep Council. “It’s not just about the classroom. We know that increased sleep duration is related to better mental health.”

Meltzer explained more sleep can also improve physical health.

The district, citing research and medical evidence, says classes that start later for middle and high school students align with the sleep cycles of children in those age groups. In addition, the district says research also suggests an earlier start time for elementary-age students, as well as students with emotional and behavioral disorders, gives them an advantage.

“Our goal is really to try to match their sleep rhythms a little bit better and give them that opportunity to get the rest that they need so they can come in focused and ready to learn,” said Carissa Keister, Stillwater Area Public Schools communications representative.

The district said this idea has been talked about for years and it all comes down to helping students.

“We’re actually one of the last districts in our area to be considering this. Most of the schools in our conference already have later starts,” Keister said.

According to the district’s website, the proposal – if approved – would move the start times to the following for each school starting with the 2024-2025 year:

  • Elementary schools: 7:45 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.
  • Middle schools: 8:35 a.m. – 3:05 p.m.
  • High school: 8:45 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Charter and non-public schools would create their own start time, and they would vary by building.

Another meeting will be held on Dec. 19, where district leaders will share a start time proposal with the board at Lily Lake Elementary School. That meeting will also be available on YouTube.

District officials are expected to make a decision on start times on Feb. 20. Prior to that decision, community conversations will be held on Jan. 4 and on Jan. 11. The first will be held at Oak-Land Middle School and the second at Stillwater Middle School. Both of those meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

In addition to moving start times, the district is also considering moving the start of the school year a week earlier so MEA, spring break and winter break would line up at the end of each quarter. It would also have the school year end just before Memorial Day.

If approved, that change would be made starting with the 2025-2026 school year.

The school board is expected to decide on the school year calendar on Jan. 23.

The district has also put together a page for frequently asked questions, such as how this would affect after-school activities, waiting at bus stops and more.