District 220 survey show students getting more sleep, other benefits from later start
A Barrington Area Unit District 220 survey shows positive trends such as more sleep for students and reduced unscheduled nurse visits since later start times were enacted for high school and the middle schools in 2017-18.
District 220 took its first poll of the students, employees and teachers toward the end of the 2016-17 academic season to establish bench marks for results before the first year of the later start times.
Superintendent Brian Harris said changes are expected for future surveys because certain questions, such as those linked to students comparing earlier and later starts, no longer will be relevant.
"We'll work on it a little bit, pare it way down, focus on the items that we know are the critical items," Harris said.
In 2017-18, the high school and the two middle school students were shifted to later start times, with the younger children beginning earlier, in a move that officials hoped would boost academic performance and student well-being.
Barrington High moved its start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and District 220's two middle schools shifted to 9 a.m. from 7:55 a.m.
When asked whether they were getting an optimal 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep per day, 24% reported doing so in 2018-19, compared with 15% before the later starts. The most recent survey distributed toward the end of May also shows 402 unscheduled nurse visits by the students in 2018-19 compared with 483 in 2016-17 before the shift.
Asked whether the later starts are an overall benefit, 61% of students said yes, compared with 66% who expected a benefit before the switch. The district's assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, John Bruesch, said the results from that question must consider the students who never had to start high school at 7:20 a.m. or middle school at 7:55 a.m.
"Ultimately, what I think we're seeing from the students is a sort of beginning to lack sufficient context from when the change was made," Bruesch said. "So, we have students at both the middle school and high school that may have little to no context of where they were three years ago to now."
Fewer high school students are reporting driving to campus. The latest survey shows 961 typically drove to Barrington High in 2018-19, compared with 1,186 in 2016-17 before the later start.
Eight percent of students reported nodding off at the wheel while driving versus 10% before the change.
Bruesch said it needs to be decided if the survey should continue annually and whether to just poll parents and employees.