Should Dearborn High Schools Have Flexible Start Times?
The Dearborn Board of Education approved a plan this week that will allow students to start school one hour late if they choose.
A plan to allow students at all three Dearborn high schools the option to start one hour later beginning in September was approved Monday night by the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education, but not without debate.
The program will allow 10th through 12th grade students at Dearborn High, Edsel Ford and Fordson to start classes at 8:25 a.m. and leave school at 3:20 p.m., as opposed to beginning classes at 7:20 a.m. and leaving school at 2:15 p.m.
Students must commit to the schedule for an entire school year, and must have no outstanding credits or classes to make up, said Gail Shenkman, the assistant superintendent of secondary education at Dearborn Schools.
“The program is voluntary,” she added.
Students must also be able to provide their own transportation to and from school, because bus schedules will not change to accomodate the shift. Also, it will prevent them from taking part in extra-curricular activities that begin before 3:20 p.m.
The late-start debate began several years ago, but was re-invigorated by the school board last year. The need, board members say, is based on research that shows high school students are going to school sleep-deprived–which is not a condition conducive to learning, Shenkman said.
Lisa Goddard, a parent who has two children who have graduated from Dearborn High and three others slated to attend high school, urged the board to accept the program.
“I think the early start time present a lot of challenges to students,” she said. “I have three more (children) that will attend the high school, and I would like to see it changed. My others told me they didn’t feel like they woke up until second hour.”
Another parent, Ernest Oz, said the program doesn’t go far enough to meet the needs of students.
“The plan is not adequate,” he said. “It’s designed to accommodate adults.”
Oz also said he favored a plan that would reverse start times for high schoolers with that of middle schoolers. Trustee Aimee Blackburn said she supports the late start option, but that it’s not a viable plan to shift the earlier start times to middle school students, or upend long-standing start times for parents.
“A lot of parents believe starting at seven (o’clock) is best for students to learn ... it’s not a zero-sum game,” she said.
Not all teachers will participate in the program. District officials worked out a plan with the Dearborn Federation of Teachers that made teacher participation voluntary.
Students will be matched with participating teachers based on their course selection and needs, and if the number of students electing the late option is greater than the number of students participating teachers can handle, students will be chosen by a lottery.
The program will be piloted in the 2012-13 school year and reexamined to determine if it will continue.