Committee to recommend changing Park City school start times
July 19, 2016
A committee that has been studying the possibility of shifting school start times in the Park City School District is set to recommend to the Board of Education next month that Park City High School begin classes later in the morning starting in the 2017-2018 school year.
Todd Hauber, the district's business administrator and a member of the committee, said the decision to encourage the school board to delay the high school's start time was due to two main factors: research that shows students that age learn best when classes start around 8:30 or 9 a.m.; and the results of a survey that showed Park City residents support the change.
According to a newsletter the district sent out last week, 66 percent of the more than 2,900 people who took the survey, conducted online in recent months, indicated that they were in favor of changing start times. Further, 71 percent of those people supported moving the first classes at the high school and Treasure Mountain Junior High to after 8 a.m.
"With that all coming together, the committee felt that it had sufficient information to make a presentation to the board," Hauber said.
No specific time has been chosen for classes at the high school to begin, but Hauber said the preference is between 8:30 and 9 a.m.
Such a change would not come without ripple effects. For one, the start times at the district's other six schools would likely be altered, as well, in order for the same number of buses to continue to pick up and drop off students. Currently, the district uses a three-tiered start-time structure for the buses to make the rounds. The high school and junior high begin earliest, at 7:35 a.m., followed by the four elementary schools (8:10 a.m. or 8:15 a.m.) and Ecker Hill Middle School, which starts at 8:50 a.m.
Hauber said the committee is looking at continuing the tiered structure, with either Ecker Hill or the elementary schools starting before the high school. But figuring out the best way to accommodate that setup has been challenging for the district's transportation department.
"They have to say, 'OK, if you order things in that direction, how tight can we make those bus schedules so that early group isn't starting before the sun rises?'" he said. "It's trying to get the right transportation schedule in place to get the high school in that middle time block."
Traffic patterns along S.R. 248 are also a large consideration. Hauber said the district is consulting with the transportation office at City Hall to construct models that detail the potential impacts of a start time change on what is one of the most congested stretches of road in town most mornings, particularly during ski season.
"That information will help define what the best start time is," he said.
Athletics and extracurricular activities at the high school are other factors that have been prominent in the discussions. Some have worried that a later start time would force some athletic teams to practice in the dark during the winter months and that athletes would have to miss more class to compete in games.
Two district representatives tasked with seeking solutions to those issues, PCHS principal Bob O'Connor and athletic director Jamie Sheetz, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Hauber said he does not expect the committee to iron out all the details before making its recommendation to the school board. Rather, the committee will present its findings and allow the board to determine an exact plan if votes to change the start times.
The committee is expected to make the recommendation during the August 23 public school board meeting. The district is encouraging community members to voice their ideas and concerns about a potential change during the meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. at the district office.