OJR school district to hold community forum on start times

Owen J. Roberts (OJR) School District will host a special community forum on Thursday, Oct. 6 to discuss school start times for the 2023-2024 school year. The forum will begin at 6 p.m., inside OJR Middle School, and will include the school district’s recommendations for potential school start times, options for consideration by the public and the opportunity for community input before the OJR Board of School Directors considers voting on the matter later this fall.

In advance of the community forum, OJR has developed a school start time portal for the community that includes all the information and resources relevant to the discussion. The community can explore the site by visiting the homepage of the District’s website at http://www.ojrsd.com or visit the school start time portal at https://www.ojrsd.com/Page/10477.

To help the district plan for the forum, as a courtesy community members interested in attending are encouraged to register in advance at https://forms.gle/7ZmTroW2nJyjq3B6A.

During the forum, OJR Superintendent Will Stout will share research and survey findings, discuss benefits and challenges to adjusting school start times, explain the costs associated with schedule changes and other factors for consideration, as well as answer community questions. Forum attendees will also learn the benefits of providing older students with additional hours of sleep and hear about the experiences of neighboring school districts that already updated their start times.

“As Owen J. Roberts School District charts a path forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an invaluable opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of our students and develop best practices that effectively support classroom learning environments and foster greater academic achievement,” said Dr. Will Stout, superintendent.

“One of the first and most impactful topics we can address as we set out to create a new normal for our students is the school schedule. Our recommendation to adjust school start times is not a decision that should be instinctively based on popularity, or the degree of difficulty to implement change. Rather, our recommendation must consider our shared responsibility to implement change that represents and supports the best interest of OJR students,” Stout said.

Over the last several years, OJR has conducted extensive research focused on school start times and solicited multiple rounds of feedback on the subject from students, families, staff and the community in the form of surveys, presentations and meetings. Based on the district’s findings and previous input received from the community, OJR leadership will present the community with options for consideration and discuss the best ways to serve students.

The goal of the community forum is for district leadership and the community to collaborate on the best way to proceed with school start times and make a final recommendation for consideration by the Board of School Directors in either November or December. During the forum, the community will learn about three options currently being considered by the district:

  • Flipping start times for elementary and secondary students

    • Elementary schools start school closer to 7:45 or 8 a.m.

    • Secondary students start school between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.


  • Staggering start times for Elementary Schools

    • Elementary start times are staggered between 7:45 and 8 a.m.

    • Secondary start times occur between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.


  • Pushing all start times later

    • Secondary students start school between 8:00 and 8:15 a.m.

    • Elementary students start school between 8:45 and 9 a.m.


All feedback from the community forum will be considered by OJR leaders and discussed with the OJR School Start Time Planning Committee during a soon to be scheduled meeting in October. The School Start Time Planning Committee includes members of the OJR Board of School Directors, teachers, administrators, parents, community members and student representatives. The committee’s role is to analyze benefits and challenges associated with any school start time changes, look at costs and other factors for consideration, as well as ensure community feedback is included in any potential recommendations.

Following the meeting with the planning committee, district leadership would then meet with OJR Board of School Directors at the board work session scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14. Should the district elect to move forward with a plan to adjust school start times, the school board could potentially consider and vote on the recommendations at its regularly scheduled public meeting on Monday, Nov. 28. The new school start times would not take effect until next August, at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.

Experts note that as few as 1-in-10 teenagers in the U.S. get the recommended amount of sleep on a daily basis, resulting in a dramatic impact on critical brain development during adolescence. Research notes the negative implications of sleep deprivation in teenagers as significant contributing factors to mood regulation disorders, decreased critical reasoning skills, declining physical and mental health, and diminished classroom performance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need, but most American adolescents start school too early. According to the CDC’s 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools in the U.S. started before 8:30 a.m.

In recent years, an increasing number of school districts across the nation have begun adjusting their school start times to align with scientific research suggesting that teenage students, especially those in high school, require more sleep than existing school start times have previously afforded them. As a result, school districts adopting later start times in their secondary schools have benefited students with increased subject matter retention and academic performance, experienced improvements to student mental and physical health and witnessed positive changes to student behavior and safety.

For more information about the Owen J. Roberts School District and school start times, visit www.ojrsd.com.

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