Norfolk School Board Approves Plan to Change School Hours in the 2021-22 School Year
The Norfolk School Board has approved an administrative recommendation that will implement planned changes to school hours in the 2021-22 school year. School level start and dismissal times will be ordered this way: elementary schools first, middle schools second and high schools last. Moving high schools to a later start time is an important goal for Norfolk Public Schools leadership since research has demonstrated that later start times benefit teenagers because such timing aligns with their sleep cycles.
Last February the Board had approved the reordering of school start and dismissal times for the 2020-21 school year. The recommended one-year delay is being driven by several factors. Most notably, moving high schools to a later start time, and therefore later dismissal time, would call for significant capital improvements to athletic fields, specifically installation of lighting to address the reality of practices and games having to be scheduled in evening hours. Those capital improvements have an estimated cost of $3.7 million. “It was daunting to consider an expenditure of this magnitude when the maintenance needs of many of our schools are so pressing. Delaying an additional year allows school system leadership the opportunity to plan more effectively with city leadership as we work together strategically to increase Norfolk Public Schools capital improvement budget for the coming year,” said John Hazelette, acting deputy superintendent of operations.
Administration also cited personnel changes in key positions that hold responsibility for initiating the planned changes, as a reason for moving implementation to the 2021-22 school year. This was most notable in the area of community engagement. “Our Communications and Media Relations Office experienced the loss of its director which did negatively impact the deployment of an effective communications and engagement plan. The school system is currently in the process of recruiting a new director. That individual would lead the extensive public input process that must be undertaken when making a change that will affect thousands of stakeholders,” said Hazelette.
Plans are to embark on a community engagement plan in March when the proposed start and dismissal times are firmed up. This webpage will be updated as information becomes available. Staff will advise families and employees of updates to the page by sending them a link to the page each time a significant change is made.
School Start Times – Frequently Asked Questions
Norfolk’s proposed plan is to move to three school start times from the current four. Additionally, elementary will swap with high schools. Elementary schools would start first, and high schools last. Middle school times would remain unchanged. Click on an FAQ for more information.
—Yes. Groups such as the American Academy Of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, Society of Pediatric Nurses, National Association of School Nurses, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the National Sleep Foundation all recommend a start time no earlier than 8:30 for adolescents.
—Adolescents require 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night for optimum health. Sleep experts recommend natural sleep times of 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for adolescents, yet many middle- and high-school students must wake by 6 a.m. to reach school on time.
—Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a host of medical,mental health,safety,and behavioral issues(See supporting research citations*)
—Elementary-age children are biologically programmed to awaken and be alert earlier than teens. Research shows that high school student performance improves with later start times.
—Norfolk currently operates four (4) school start times: high school the earliest, middle next and elementary the last two. Bus runs for secondary schools are much longer than those for elementary, which creates driver and bus inefficiencies. Since high school with the longest runs are first, some students are being picked up before 6:00 a.m. The proposed shift would eliminate such early pickup time (estimated earliest would be around 7 a.m.). The shift would also reduce buses arriving late at a school since the shorter elementary runs (generally less than 20 minutes) are less likely to run late when they are in the higher traffic times. .
—Schools that have adopted later start times have found extracurricular activity participation remains largely unchanged. Athletic director’s report that the logistics work out better than anticipated, and research confirms that students experience fewer sports injuries when well-rested. The challenges to athletic participation are recognized and will be addressed.
—In schools that have adopted later school start times, adolescent bedtimes remain primarily unchanged and total sleep time increases.
—Chesapeake Public Schools has operated with the high schools starting last and elementary schools starting earlier for years. Virginia Beach recently voted to move secondary schools to a later start time by the 2020-21 school year. Some colleges have also begun to alter schedules due to sleep research, starting the first classes at 8:30 a.m. or later. A number of other school districts are considering start time changes to move older students to a later time.
—The district would expect to see substantial Transportation savings as documented as well as provide flexibility to address other Transportation needs. There may be some cost related to athletics and field lighting, which the district has anticipated.
—The proposed schedule will make it easier for parents to get younger children out the door to school, allowing older ones to get themselves off, if parents need to leave for work. The district and community have programs for after-school care to minimize the impact of the time shift.
Major decisions that impact the district are never made lightly. Benefits and challenges must be considered as all work to do what’s best for the students of NPS. Below are the major benefits and challenges that have been identified as relates to school start times.
- Full utilization of fleet & drivers (less driver downtime)
- Shortened ride times (120 minutes to 40 minutes)
- Reduction of approximately 40 contracts (@$16.5k/annually)
- Later a.m. pick up times (@7:00 a.m. from 5:30 a.m.)
- Later high school start time (academic benefits, decreased absenteeism, accreditation)
- Middle school start time not impacted
- Activity-bus efficiencies
Elementary Start Times
- A concern of early morning darkness and safety
- Impact of earlier start time on educational performance
Before & After Care
- Older siblings being home for younger children after school
- Longer time in after school care
High School & Middle School Athletics
- Later practice/game start and end times
- Lighting on existing fields
- Depression and anxiety (Bates, 2002; Chorney et al. 2008; Gibson et al., 2006; Kahn, 2006)
- Obesity (Mitchell et al., 2013; Must and Parisia 2009; Talleri et al., 2004)Increased insulin resistance (Mathews et al. 2012)
- Poor dietary choices (Hale, 2013)
- Increased automobile accidents (Danner and Phillips, 2008; NCSDR, 1997; Wahlstrom, 2014)
- Increased sports injuries (Milewski et al. 2012)
- Improved sleep and day-time Functioning in Adolescents (Boergers, Gable & Owens, 2014)
- Attention and problem-solving (Gibson et al., 2006; Kilgore et al., 2007)
- Suicide (Bernert and Joiner. 2007)
- Improved attendance, less tardiness, less falling asleep in class, better grades, and fewer motor vehicle crashes. Wheaton, Chapman, and Croft (2016)
- Attendance rates and graduation rates significantly improved in schools with delayed start times of 8:30 a.m. or later. McKeever and Clark (2017)
- Starting school one hour later was associated with an increase in standardized test scores equal to 1.8 percentile points in mathematics and 1.0 percentile point in reading. Edwards (2012)