Updated June 14, 2023 - 7:10 pm
The Nevada State Board of Education could consider a resolution as early as July that could possibly mean later school start times.
Most high schools in the Clark County School District start at 7 a.m. Parents and students have voiced concerns, and research has also shown early start times are associated with academic performance and safety issues.
The board discussed the topic Wednesday, but didn’t take action. No decision has been made yet about any specific requirements for school schedules.
Pahrump Valley High School student Michael Keyes, the state board’s student representative, said he feels it’s important to give choice to school districts, students and parents.
He also said it’s necessary for children to get more sleep. “It’s a fact. These kids aren’t sleeping enough.”
The board could see draft language for a regulation in July, she said.
If the board votes on regulation language, it would go to the state’s Legislative Council Bureau and then a regulation hearing would be held to allow for public input, Ortiz said.
Currently, school districts must already submit their schedules to the state for approval.
‘Various factors’ to consider
The Clark County School District said in a Wednesday statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “various factors” must be considered when evaluating significant changes to school schedules.
Those include “local circumstances,” impacts to athletics, transportation, after-school programs, parental and family needs, and student work schedules, the district said.
“Because changes to high school start times would potentially involve either a reduction in services to families who are provided transportation, or a substantial unfunded cost to increase the size of the bus fleet and staff, our families must be included in any consideration of these changes prior to their proposal,” according to the statement.
Ortiz said there’s an opportunity to potentially exclude rural school districts from a regulation. And, she noted she likes the idea of setting guardrails, but giving flexibility and choice.
For example, that could mean requiring districts to have a certain percentage of their schools starting at a later time.
Ortiz also said she thinks having a waiver option for districts is a good idea.
Board member Tim Hughes said they’re getting lots of lots of emails about school start times, noting people are passionate about it.
Comments have largely been from people who are dissatisfied with “super early” start times, he said.
Concerns from superintendents
Susan Keema, executive director of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents, said decisions about school start times should be made at a local level.
State education board member Summer Stephens, superintendent of the Churchill County School District, said the regulation could start to tie the hands of districts that are offering a multitude of options for students, including zero-hour classes.
“I really do believe that local control is important,” she said.
Stephens said she’d like to see the board pursue a policy statement instead.
A couple of board members questioned whether a proposed regulation was specifically in response to Clark County start times, rather than a statewide issue.
Stephens said she’s concerned there will be unintended consequences, including districts that may no longer bus high school students. “I don’t want that to be the case.”
Board member Mike Walker — an elementary school principal in Dayton and a Carson City School Board trustee — raised concerns such as inadequate lighting on athletic fields, safety for elementary schoolers walking to campuses earlier and the impact on local employers who rely on teenage workers.