Park Hill committee tackles start times, sleep studies

After the extraordinary winter, with local districts missing many days of school due to the weather, another Platte County district is adjusting its calendar to minimize the future impact of snow days.

At the Thursday, May 9 meeting of the Park Hill board of education, the board adjusted the district’s 2019-2020 school calendar to build in two make-up days during the school year.

Missed school days will be made up on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 17, 2020, and the exiting teacher work day on March 13, 2020, before Park Hill adds days to the end of the school year next year. Any additional inclement weather days for 2019-2020 will be made up at the end of the school year starting on May 26, 2020.

The board set the next year’s calendar in late January. School will start on Wednesday, Aug. 14 with winter break running from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3, 2020. Spring break will be March 16-20, 2020. The last day of school is scheduled for a half day on Friday, May 22, 2020

The district has also provided a public update on activities of the newly-formed committee on sleep and school start times. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and administrators, held its first meeting Monday, May 6.

The committee was formed to determine if school start times affected sleep patterns and how sleep patterns can also affect school. Additionally, the group has been tasked to review the impacts of start times on school programs and after-school activities.

Recently, the district backed off from a plan to change school start times starting this fall.

A subgroup is reviewing scientific research into sleep. The early reviews showed there are clear patterns in teenagers’ sleep cycles but that research trying to connect more sleep with better academic outcomes was not conclusive, according to the district’s statements.

However, reliable data was found showing a clear change in natural sleep cycles when children become teenagers, as well as a correlation between later start times for teenagers and reduced traffic accidents and improved mental health.
Other subgroups worked to identify how possible changes in start times would affect schools and students.

A survey will be conducted on starting Friday, May 31. The group will discuss its findings at the Thursday, June 10 board of education meeting.