School Start FAQs

    FAQ's from Faculty & Parent Mtgs. - Sept. 2018 to October 2018

    The following questions were asked at Teacher Forums at each school building in September and early October.


    Impact on Students

    1. Will MS/HS students actually get more sleep?

    The consensus from the scientific studies is clear: when school districts move secondary schools’ start times later, students get more sleep because they fall asleep more promptly and sleep more deeply as their schedules mirror their Circadian Rhythms.


    2. What is the research on elementary start time?

    The biological research shows that an elementary child’s natural “clock” causes the release of melatonin (hormone that induces drowsiness) upon nightfall. However, that biological “clock” gets pushed back by a couple of hours during adolescence, delaying the secretion of melatonin a couple of hours, making it harder for adolescents to fall asleep until much later. Because of these biological realities, it makes sense to have elementary students start earlier in order to mirror their biological clocks that encourage them to wake at daybreak and have middle and high school students wake and start school later.


    In terms of studies of the impact on elementary students of the implementation of earlier start times, the data is less robust than data for secondary level students. However, there is promising data. For example, a 1998 study in Minneapolis found positive performance and behavioral responses among students when certain Minneapolis elementary schools went from 8:40 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. A 2015 study, furthermore, found an increase of sleep among 3rd grade elementary students when elementary schools shifted from 8:20 to 7:45 a.m. while seeing a decrease in sleep of between four and nine minutes among fourth and fifth grade students.


    3. Have you ever surveyed elementary parents about what time children currently wake up?

    In the spring of 2017, elementary parents were surveyed. (Please keep in mind that this data is when parents are aware that their children are awake and, thus, could be later than the elementary students actually wake up.) The surveys found that 25% currently wake up at 6:30 a.m. or earlier. Forty percent wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. and thirty-five percent wake up after 7:00 a.m.


    4. Why change? We’re a high performing district. Kids are on social media late at night. Elementary kids are arriving without breakfast and eat here.

    In August of 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics made the following statement:


    “Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance.


    But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.


    In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.”


    We also believe that elementary students will benefit from a start time that mirrors their own biological clocks and enables them to start and end their days earlier.


    5. Are we trading one problem for another?

    We are confident that we are not trading one problem for another.

    The biological research shows that a child’s body natural “clock” causes the release of melatonin (the hormone that induces drowsiness) upon nightfall. While that changes during adolescence, an elementary child’s “clock” also predicts that an early start for their school day (subsequent to waking up at early light) is more natural.


    In terms of studies of the implementation of later start times, the data regarding the impact on elementary students is less robust than data for secondary level students. However, there is promising data. For example, a 1998 study in Minneapolis found positive performance and behavioral responses among students when certain Minneapolis elementary schools went from 8:40 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. A 2015 study, furthermore, found an increase of sleep among 3rd grade elementary students when elementary schools shifted from 8:20 to 7:45 a.m. while seeing a decrease in sleep of only four and nine minutes among fourth and fifth grade students.


    6. Can we push high school to 8:45 a.m. so elementary can start at 8:00 a.m?

    School Committee has made a decision to choose between two possible end times, 3:00 or 3:05 p.m. This change will impact sports, causing us to delay or change between 100 and 150 contests. Moving high school dismissal to 3:15 p.m. (necessary with an 8:45 am start time) would have changed that to about 250-300 contests and would have caused us to cancel a variety of sporting events.


    7. What is the reason for the 15-minute drop off window for students?

    The drop-off time ensures that all students arrive in their rooms on time, given crowded drop-off logistics at elementary schools. It also ensures that students do not get rushed into their classrooms.


    8. Anxiety is on the rise in elementary school kids. Will this change increase it? Can we put supports in?

    We believe that elementary students will benefit from a start time that mirrors their own biological clocks and enables them to start and end their days earlier. At the same time, we will be watching closely any challenges that arise and will work to address them.

    9.What if it is impossible for me to get my child to school on time with the new schedule?  What happens if a student is chronically late?  What supports will we put in place for behavioral issues that result from sleep deprivation?

    We expect students to be at school on time, as it is disruptive to a student's learning for them to miss class time. We are not expecting significant additional behavioral issues, but we will ensure that all children with behavioral needs are properly supported.  We also intend to provide sleep education throughout the district to help parents with information and strategies to ensure their students are getting adequate sleep.

    Impact on Teachers

    10. How would k-12 department meetings happen in scenario 1?

    While a draft of a plan has been developed, further discussions with department leaders will take place after the School Committee vote. One approach the District could implement is that the District would provide release time for teachers (perhaps 2-hour sessions on four different days throughout the school year) in selected K-12 departments.


    11. When would faculty meetings take place?

    We expect that principals and their buildings will plan them in the way that works best for their buildings following a similar process as they do now.


    12. Can we individualize departure times?

    Principals may authorize flexibility. The Central Office wants to be careful not to promise a certain amount of flexibility. Customizing schedules can become problematic very quickly when organizing meetings and ensuring that students are properly supervised. This would have to be done carefully at the principal’s discretion.


    13. How will staff deal with morning child care not starting before 7:00 a.m?

    We know that this is a challenge for a number of staff. We are happy to connect high school staff (who deal with this challenge now) with elementary staff.


    14. What is cost for full day teacher professional development?

    It would cost $135,000 in per diem salary to have WTA members work for one day when students were not present.


    15. How will this affect teacher retention?

    We know that there is concern among teachers that they will not be able to address their own personal needs regarding child care and other personal responsibilities after a change in start time. We will do everything we can to help teachers address those issues. In Districts throughout the country that have made changes like the ones Wayland is considering, research has shown minimal teacher retention issues.


    BASE and Child Care

    16. How might BASE adjust to increased need?

    We are working with School Committee to use BASE revenue to make targeted pay increases, and to market our BASE jobs as vigorously as possible throughout the region in order to acquire the necessary staff for an increase in demand. We will work with families to connect them with possible child care solutions.

    17. What is the flexibility of Longfellow daycare on arrival times?

    Longfellow has expressed a willingness to add earlier times based on demand. However, they do not foresee having flexibility that would allow parents to choose to enroll children in only a part of the after-school program.



    18. Can we use BASE revenue for more buses?

    By law, BASE revenues cannot be used for school expenses. BASE and the School Department have two separate budgets.


    Impact on Boston Students

    19. When will the decision be made about allocating an additional morning bus for Boston students?

    The above mentioned “decision” refers to a proposed allocation of an additional morning elementary bus for Boston-resident students. That additional bus would cut in half the number of Boston stops for elementary students, reducing travel time approximately fifteen minutes. That would result in a pick-up at the first stop of 6:50 a.m. as opposed to the current projection of 6:35 a.m. The cost of the second morning bus would be $32,000. This allocation will be reviewed and possibly approved as part of the School Committee recommended budget in late January 2019, and ultimately by the town in early May 2019 at Town Meeting.


    20. Can we have an after-school bus for Boston residents?

    We have an after-school bus every day at the high school, 4 days a week at the middle school, and 3 days a week at elementary. We could increase these late buses if necessary.


    21. Is it too early for Boston-resident students?

    It is possible for Boston students on the earliest buses to get enough sleep. The first bus pick-up is 6:35 a.m. According to reports from Boston families, the average Boston student on the earliest bus has to get up at 5:30 to make this bus on time. In order to get 9.5 hours of sleep elementary, Boston elementary students will have to go to bed at approximately 8:00 p.m.


    Extra Help, Extracurriculars and Sports

    22. How will WHS students get extra help after school?

    The Wayland Public Schools believes that, in addition to student health, academic growth is our highest priority. As a result, we expect coaches and teachers to work together to ensure that athletes can join practices later when necessary due to after-school help.


    23. Will there be a change in time for athletics for elementary school activities after school?

    The District will be working with the Recreation Department to minimize the delays in their programs which traditionally start at about 6:00 p.m. There will probably be some delay, but we hope that will be mitigated by the new fields projects. The District will work with its coaches to examine its teams’ practice lengths as well.

    24. How will fine arts programing at night and during the afternoon be affected? Will there be a gap between afternoon and night?

    The Central Office and the Performing Arts Department will have meetings beginning in early December to address the challenge of scheduling performing arts rehearsals and performances. There will likely be a smaller gap between afternoon and evening rehearsals because of the later dismissal time. Rehearsals may also need to be somewhat shorter to ensure that students who participate in arts programs or sports right after school and perform also at night have a chance to get home for dinner.


    25. Could clubs start before school? What about extra help?

    In order to avoid mitigating the benefits of this change in start times, School Committee will most likely strongly recommend that teachers and administrators make every effort to schedule structured activities after school. (Principals may have some discretion for activities particularly targeted for the morning, like morning fitness programs.) School Committee understands that one-on-one or small-group extra help may take place in the morning.


    26. Would athletes be pulled for games? Which ones?

    Currently, golf and alpine skiing leave early for some games. In addition, during playoff games, some other teams are dismissed early. When dismissal at the High School moves to 3:00 or 3:05, nordic skiing, cross country, indoor track and track and field participants would also be dismissed earlier.


    27. How do we avoid early dismissals for sports?

    We expect to move approximately 50 games to Saturdays and move some games later in the afternoon.  Probably about 250 of the 700 contests would move from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.


    28. Could we have flex time at the end of the day?

    In order to have a Flex block last period (to hold clubs and let athletes leave early during a non-academic block), we would have to remove one of the eight periods as a landing spot for coursework. This would limit the ability of students to customize their schedules to fit their particular interest, an integral part of the Wayland High School experience.


    29. How do we account for field access for youth sports?

    We will work with Wayland Recreation to develop the most efficient transitions from school to town use. In 2020-2021, we should have more flexibility if the Loker fields project passes at November Town Meeting.

    30. Will sports teams be eliminated?
    We do not expect to eliminate any sports teams, though a few of the Freshman and JV teams may have a small reduction in the number of games they play.

    Measuring Impact

    31. How will we measure impacts (sleep, tardies, absences, grades)?

    Currently, the District collects data on office visits, tardy arrivals, and attendance. We will review that data annually in an effort to discern the impact of the change in start times. We will also survey parents (k-5) and students (6-12) annually to capture the impact of the change on the amount of sleep students get.


    Other Efforts to Address Student Health

    32. Have we considered other ways to mitigate student stress?

    The Wayland Public Schools have taken, and will continue to take, a number of initiatives to address student stress in addition to changing schedules to give them more time to sleep. Fo example, this year, Wayland High School began to phase out weighted GPA in an effort to lessen our high school students’ focus on GPA. Over the past few years, we have also increased our electives offerings to tap into different learning experiences; examined our approach to homework; and expanded the explicit teaching of stress management strategies in our wellness classes. We will continue this work over the next few years.


    33. Will there be an adjustment of homework expectations?

    A K-12 Implementation Committee will start its work after the vote by School Committee. This group will consider developing recommendations for Admin Council which could include recommendations for a change in homework practices.



    34. Can we increase bus fees to enable us to contract for more buses to make transportation more efficient?

    Increasing bus fees would probably cause more parents to drive. Furthermore, if more students were to ride the bus, the District would actually lose more money because the bus fees cover only 35% of the cost of the buses.



    35. What’s being communicated to elementary students’ parents?

    We are having two parent forums on October 10 and 17.


    36. Can we speak to Weston about the time change?

    We have and will continue to do so. We are consulting with teachers and administrators at the Weston Public Schools.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    About Insufficient Sleep and School Start Time

    Why do we think changing start times will help?  What problem are we trying to solve?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a Policy Statement on “School Start Times for Adolescents” in August 2014 recommending that high schools and middle schools start no earlier than 8:30am.  Numerous other national medical associations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), have issued similar guidance.  They are addressing a nationwide epidemic of insufficient sleep that has serious negative physical and mental health, safety and academic achievement impacts on adolescents.  The AAP has pinpointed that delaying school start time “is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits…”


    • Why are adolescents suffering from insufficient sleep? Why can’t parents just get their kids to sleep earlier?

         There are both biological and environmental factors at play. Biologically, approximately at the onset of puberty, most adolescents experience delayed release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.  In addition, most adolescents experience a shift in “sleep drive,” which means it takes longer to fall asleep.  As such, most adolescents cannot fall asleep before 11 pm.  

    Environmental factors also contribute to insufficient sleep, including homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs and use of technology.  While important to also address these environmental factors, they will only take you so far.  

    The AASM recommends 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep for adolescents.  If a teen can’t fall asleep before 11:00 pm, he/she won’t naturally wake before 7:30 am.  Since the first buses pick up in Wayland at 6:50 am, it is impossible for most of our middle and high school students to get adequate sleep.

    Is this problem truly biological?  Why would teenagers have a different circadian rhythm?

    Yes, there truly is a biological element to it.  Recent research has corroborated a theory that different circadian rhythms at different ages acted to protect a tribe by making it more likely that there would always be a tribe member awake to watch guard.  An article on that research is online here, and the study referenced is online here.

    • How many high school and middle school students aren’t getting enough sleep?

    Student survey results in Wayland show we have slightly more sleep deprivation than the nationwide average (73% getting less than 8 hours per night vs. 70% nationwide).  By the time they reach high school, half of our students are getting 6.5 hours of sleep per night or less, significantly below the AASM recommendation of 8-10 hours.  


    Of note, Wayland MS/HS start earlier than 55% of MS/HS in MA and earlier than 80% of MS/HS nationwide.


    • If we start high school and middle school later, won’t kids just stay up later?

    Most people expect this, and even the researchers who did the original studies on this topic were surprised by the results.  Most kids do not stay up later, they just get more sleep.  Studies have shown that kids get 30-60 minutes more sleep per night when start time is delayed by 60 minutes.  (Some articles on this topic are linked online here.)  Adolescents’ ability to get to sleep is often limited by when their bodies are biologically ready to shut down, and that doesn’t change when start times change.  As such, they will generally go to sleep at about the same time, but are able to sleep longer in the morning.  Some studies have shown an even greater increase in sleep duration than the start time delay because kids are more productive when they are awake; they get their homework done faster when they are less sleep deprived and more alert.    


    • Where can I get more information on insufficient sleep and start times?

         There are a number of places to go for more information.  We have provided a few links to key information sources on the School Start Time page:

    • Do we think changing start times will solve the problem that our students aren't getting enough sleep?

    It’s important that you know, and we recognize, that changing start times is not a complete solution to this problem. We are looking at this because we want to provide our children with an environment in which is it possible to get enough sleep. But ensuring that it actually happens is a multi-faceted problem (involving choices about, for example, activities, jobs, course workload and homework) that is also complex, and will require education and commitment from all of us.

    • Why are we looking at 8:30am now when last fall we were looking at 8am?

    Two things have happened since we looked at moving HS/MS times to 8am and Elementary start times to 9am: (1) other schools have made progress on moving their start times late, and (2) we more closely evaluated moving elementary times later, and found that there were many reasons to prefer an earlier rather than a later elementary start time.

    • Why can’t we just set the times independently for the various schools (i.e., do we need to change elementary times if we change high school and middle school)?

    Wayland currently runs two tiers of buses - we pick up high school and middle school students with one set of buses and then use those same buses to subsequently pick up the elementary school students. Increasing the number of buses to allow use of a single set of buses for all school levels is extremely expensive -- a rough estimate is $800,000 per year.  It’s a decision we could choose to make, but first we would need to be convinced that was the best use of that money and that the taxpayers would support it.


    • Will an earlier start for elementary school affect learning for elementary students?

    Unlike the extensive research available on start times on middle and high school students, the research on start times for elementary students is limited and conflicting, but generally shows minimal effects of earlier or later start times. Generally, younger children have a morningness preference in their circadian rhythms and "lose steam" by mid-afternoon.  As such, earlier start times align to this timing for this age group. In contrast to elementary school children, the research on the detrimental effects of insufficient and mis-timed sleep of early start times on adolescents is absolutely solid, and the stakes are extremely high. We have posted information about elementary start times here.

    What about athletics? Will athletes be dismissed early for games? Will teams be affected?

    We will retain our policy of minimizing early dismissal for sports (and other activities), and anticipate only a small increase in the numbers of times in which this will be necessary. We expect to be able to work with league towns to ensure there is minimal impacts on sports. It is possible that there will be modest changes necessary to accommodate all the teams requiring specific high-demand fields and facilities. Coordinating with other league teams in this regard is getting easier as more towns have already made the change to a later start.

    • What about clubs and other extracurricular activities?

      Similar to sports, other towns have found no change in participation in clubs and other extra-curricular activities.  These are, fortunately, generally easier to manage as they tend to have fewer issues with conflicts, such as coordinating schedules and competing for fixed resources. Providers adjust schedules to accommodate the new release times.


    • What effect would this have on child-care arrangements for elementary students, including availability of morning BASE (Before and After School Extension) program?     

         Impact on child-care arrangements is going to vary for individual families. With young children going to school earlier in the morning, there will be a decreased need for before school care. On the other hand, with elementary school getting out earlier in the afternoon, there will likely be an increased need for after-school care. The District is committed to ensuring additional space will be available in after school BASE.    Information about the current BASE program is available at:

    • What about teachers?  What do they think about this?   

         Like the rest of us, there will be an adjustment for all of our teachers and staff.  For some, the new schedules will be preferable, for others they will be less preferred. Other districts that have implemented start time delays have worried about potential teacher turnover, but anecdotal evidence suggests this does not typically occur.  


    • What about METCO and transportation to and from Boston?

    METCO transportation always has been and will continue to be a challenge. Boston resident students have a long commute both in the morning and afternoon, and their day is considerably longer than their Wayland counterparts.  That will continue to be the case.  However, the Boston-based high school and middle school students are currently the most at-risk for sleep-deprivation among our students as they are the earliest risers in the system, and stand the most to gain from a delay in start times.    

    • How will this affect traffic flow in town?

         The District has not yet fully studied the impact to traffic flows in town.  Experience in other districts that have implemented delayed starts show that traffic patterns adjust over time to the new time.

      • Could clubs start before school? What about extra help?

           The specifics of what will and will not occur before school after start time change has not been fully worked out. We expect some extra help will occur before school, but will work to generally minimize the amount of before school activity, as this would work to offset the benefits of making start time change.

      • How will we measure the impact of making this change?

           There are a number of hard statistics that are already collected every year that will provide some useful measures of the impact of start time change. For example, we collect data on absenteeism, tardies, disciplinary measures such as office visits and suspensions, and academic measures such as grades and standardized test scores. We also get data on mental health and behavior measures from the Youth Behavior Risk Survey, and can survey the students ourselves for additional measures.


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