2 dis­tricts shift for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ann Schimke Chalk­beat Colorado is a non­profit news or­ga­ni­za­tion cov­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion is­sues. For more, visit chalk­beat.org/co.

The 22,000-stu­dent Gree­ley-Evans school dis­trict in north­ern Colorado will join the 55,000-stu­dent Cherry Creek dis­trict in sub­ur­ban Den­ver in adopt­ing later high school start times this fall.

But un­like in wealth­ier Cherry Creek, the change in Gree­ley was not the re­sult of a lengthy process to re­view re­search and so­licit com­mu­nity feed­back. In­stead, the move came out of a very dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion: How could the cash-strapped dis­trict tighten its belt?

Af­ter Gree­ley vot­ers re­jected a dis­trict tax mea­sure last Novem­ber, a chronic bus driver short­age loomed larger than ever. With no ad­di­tional money to beef up driver salaries and more than a dozen driver va­can­cies, dis­trict of­fi­cials needed to re­duce the num­ber of routes. They de­cided to dis­con­tinue bus­ing for most high school stu­dents — part of a pack­age of cuts that will save the dis­trict $667,000 a year.

Later mid­dle and high school start times have gained trac­tion in Colorado and na­tion­ally in re­cent years, with mount­ing ev­i­dence that teens are hard­wired to go to bed later and wake up later. When school sched­ules align with sleep pat­terns, re­search shows stu­dents are health­ier, at­tend school more reg­u­larly and do bet­ter aca­dem­i­cally.

In Colorado, the move to later start times has been rel­a­tively slow. Un­til March, when both the Cherry Creek and Gree­leyE­vans school boards voted on the sched­ule changes, only a few smaller dis­tricts had made the switch. They in­clude Mon­tezuma-Cortez in south­west Colorado and Har­ri­son in Colorado Springs.

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