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Fairport Central School District leaders eye shifting school day start times

Fairport High School.
Fairport Central School District
Fairport High School.

Fairport students might start their school day later – or earlier – depending on the outcome of an ongoing review by the district flip elementary and high school start times.

The Fairport Central School District is exploring whether flipping the start times for elementary and high school students might lead to better outcomes.

High schoolers currently start at 7:25 a.m., while most elementary schools start at 8:55 a.m.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to allow students to get the recommended amount of sleep and improve their health outcomes. Fairport secondary schools start an hour earlier than that.

Kariana Fenton, a Fairport junior, spoke at a school board forum this week with three classmates to advocate for a later start time for high schoolers – something that would award them a Girl Scout merit badge.

“The lack of sleep can have problems parents do not see and it can impact students' mental health, academics, and life in a variety of ways,” Fenton said. “Personally, when I don't get enough sleep, I feel less focused in class and don't feel as motivated in general.”

Shifting start times was a topic of conversation before the pandemic, but was put on hold after 2019. But moving older students to an earlier start time, and younger students later had its challenges.

“We just couldn't make it happen because of logistical pieces with the busing. It was cost prohibitive like it is in many other districts,” Superintendent Brett Provenzano said in a school board workshop meeting in December. “The benefits for mental health, wellness, academic success is backed by the research.”

The school board returned to the discussion this winter and recently sent surveys to families, said Lindsey Reddig, the district’s community liaison.

"Their top priority was that we follow the science.” Reddig said of parent and caregiver responses to the survey. “Lots of parents said ‘This is due. This should have happened a while ago, and we're excited to see how this benefits our kids.’”

Two of the largest concerns were childcare for elementary school kids and after school activities for the high school, she said

If it happens, Reddig said it wouldn’t be an overnight change.

“It's a complicated process. There are many, many moving parts,” she said. “So we're not rushing into it.”

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.