State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

School Board Discusses Updated School Day Proposal

by on September 12, 2017 10:13 AM

The State College Area School Board on Monday received and discussed an updated proposal for changes to the school day beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

A proposal was first brought to the board in April that would extend the elementary school day and provide a later start time for middle schools and the high school. Elementary schools currently start at 8:44 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m. Under the revised proposal, the elementary school day would be extended by 44 minutes, starting at 8:10 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.

Middle school start and end times would shift from the current 8:10 a.m.-3:14 p.m. to 8:40 a.m.- 3:42 p.m. High school times would move from 8:10 a.m.-3:16 p.m. to 8:40 a.m.-3:40 p.m.

According to the district, the proposal was created in collaboration with teachers, staff, parents and community members to align "with the district’s strategic goals to engage and support the whole student, foster continuous growth for every child, and close individual achievement and opportunity gaps."

The goal isn't to increase elementary student workload, but to offer more time to learn what's being taught, district administrators said. Teachers have asked for more instruction time for core subjects, and the proposal would add more time for art, library and physical education. It also would add a fifth special subject period per week for world languages and additional teacher planning time.

The current elementary school day of six hours and four minutes is less than the average length among peer districts at 6.5 hours, according to SCASD.

For middle school and high school students, the current start time is in opposition to sleep research that recommends a later start time for adolescent and teenage students. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a start time between 8:30 and 9 a.m. for middle school and high school students.

Orfeu Buxton, a parent of district students and sleep researcher at Penn State, spoke at Monday's meeting in support of the later start time for secondary students.

"Decades of research supports a later school start time for learning achievement and many other important developmental matters [for adolescents]," Buxton said. 

He added that all people have an internal clock that changes with age.

"During teenage or adolescent development this clock moves to a later time making it harder for a teen to go to sleep at what we might call a reasonable hour," he said. "It also makes it harder for them to wake up. It's harder for teens than children or adults to wake up early."

The high school proposal could include a "zero period" in the morning and potential online learning options to meet flexibility needs for students who participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Administrators have started working with the Mid-Penn Conference on how athletic events are scheduled.

For elementary students, the extra time in the classroom would result in decreased homework.

After the proposal was first made in April, the district incorporated community feedback and a district bus system audit into the updated proposal.

The addition of a fifth elementary subject would require eight to 10 additional teachers resulting in staffing costs of about $1 million. For transportation, the addition of equipment and driver costs would add an estimated $250,000 annually, down from an initial estimate of $500,000. Three bus drivers would need to be added to accommodate the new schedule.

While some parents spoke in support of the proposal, others voiced objections. Reasons for opposition included the impact on family schedules, costs, giving students less time to relax before after-school activities, and stress on elementary families with an earlier start time, and high school students who may only see their nights pushed back later without getting extra sleep.

Informational sessions on the proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Park Forest Middle School and Sept. 27 at Mount Nittany Middle School.

The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its Oct. 9 meeting.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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