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Healthy Start Times

Studies have shown that adolescents are significantly sleep-deprived, with school start times as one of the strongest contributing factors. Adolescents need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night, but in the United States, almost 75% of adolescents get 7 hours or less of sleep per night. During puberty, biological factors make it difficult for adolescents to fall asleep early enough to get the recommended amount of sleep before getting up for an early start. 

In response to this issue, the DPS Board of Education in May 2021 passed a resolution to have all middle schools and high schools (district-managed and charters) start no earlier than 8:20 a.m. each school day to support healthy sleep habits in adolescents.

The new Healthy Start bill times will go into effect for the 2023-24 school year.

When DPS moves start times later for middle and high school students, we will also need to move start earlier for our elementary school students, largely due to resource limitations with transportation. Health experts have shared that biological factors make it easier for younger students to fall asleep earlier, allowing them to obtain sufficient sleep for earlier school start times. With this, we’re optimistic that changes in school start times will have minimal negative effects on our younger students while adding the many needed benefits for our middle and highschool students. 

Throughout this transition, DPS is committed to working closely with families, students, school leaders and staff to make the change to Healthy Start Times as safe and seamless as possible.

Note: This Board resolution is a separate initiative from the bell time changes that went into effect fall 2021. The bell time changes for Fall 2021 were necessary due to Transportation constraints, as DPS needed to move to a more efficient bell time system in order to fully and effectively relaunch pre-COVID transportation services.

Benefits of Later Start Times

Multiple studies have demonstrated the benefits of changing to a later school start time for middle and high school students, and many reputable organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have shown their support for this initiative. 

When students get more than 8 hours of sleep per night, we see:

  • Better attendance rates
  • Better academic outcomes
  • Higher graduation rates
  • Fewer instances of depression
  • Reduced caffeine use
  • Fewer car accidents 
  • Better physical and mental health overall

Sleep is essential for learning, mood, behavior and health. By moving school start times later for middle and high school students, we will be taking the first step in setting them up for success in school and in life. See the below resources for more information:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Healthy Start Resolution?

In April 2021, the DPS Board of Education passed the Healthy Start Times Resolution that would have all middle schools and high schools (district-managed and charters) start no earlier than 8:20 a.m. each school day to support healthy sleep habits in adolescents.

When will the change in school start times go into effect?

The new Healthy Start Times will go into effect in fall 2023.

DPS will begin engagement with the community during the 2021-22 school year to gather important feedback and ideas about how we can best implement the resolution.

We plan to announce final bell times no later than December 2022 in order to provide families with important information heading into the ShoolChoice process in January 2023.

What prompted DPS’ decision to implement these changes to school start times?

Studies have shown that adolescents are significantly sleep-deprived, with school start times as one of the strongest contributing factors. Adolescents need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night, but in the United States, almost 75% of adolescents get 7 hours or less of sleep per night. During puberty, biological factors make it difficult for adolescents to fall asleep early enough to wake in time for an early school start time.

Insufficient sleep can have a huge impact on how adolescents function overall. Not getting enough sleep contributes to mood changes, behavior problems, difficulty with attention span and memory, as well as weight gain among middle and high schoolers.

Does this mean that the school day will end an hour later for middle and high schools?

Once we implement the new healthy start times, middle and high school students will generally get out of school later in the afternoon, likely between 3:30 and 4:45 p.m. Elementary school students will generally get out of school earlier in the afternoon, likely between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

Why didn’t DPS make this change at the same time as the bell time changes for the 2021-22 school year?

The bell time changes for fall 2021 were necessary due to transportation resource constraints. We would have been unable to fully relaunch transportation service this fall without these changes. 

Aligning the district with Healthy Start Times will require more significant changes and, in the midst of COVID and returning to school in-person last spring, we were not in a place to facilitate engagement and implement the changes at that time.

What will this mean for afterschool activities and athletics, as well as responsibilities students may have like an afterschool job or caring for siblings?

We know that the transition to healthy start times will impact the lives of students, families and school staff. This fall, we want to hear from you regarding those impacts and how DPS can support through this change to healthy start times.

View information about opportunities to engage to help DPS understand the impacts and plan for support.

How will this change affect the sleep needs for elementary students?

Health experts have shared that biological factors make it easier for younger students to fall asleep earlier, allowing them to obtain sufficient sleep for earlier school start times, and we’re hopeful that this change will have minimal negative effects on our younger students.

Are there other school districts that have implemented this change?

Yes, there are other districts that have implemented this change, including right here in Colorado. Our neighboring district, Cherry Creek Schools, made a move to later school start times in 2017. More information about their experience can be found in this article from the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. Additional districts in the area, including Greeley-Evans and Littleton, have also made similar adjustments to their start times.

What opportunities will I have to provide input about these changes?

We are in the process of planning community engagement events to gather important feedback from staff, families and community members to help answer questions and support the DPS community with this change. We will be sharing more details about these opportunities soon.

Who can I contact with questions?

If you have questions, please call our Family and Community Helpline at 720-423-3054. You can also send an email to facehelpline@dpsk12.org.

Community Engagement

While the science is clear on the benefits of later start times for adolescents, DPS understands the impact these changes may have on our families’ day-to-day schedule and routines. As such, we will be focusing our efforts on gathering important feedback from staff, families and community to help answer questions and support the DPS community with this change.

Please check back for updates and opportunities to share your voice.

Family Supports and Resources

Insufficient sleep can have a huge impact on how adolescents function overall. Not getting enough sleep contributes to mood changes, behavior problems, difficulty with attention span and memory, as well as weight gain among middle and high schoolers. 

There are many signs parents can look for to see if their child is getting enough sleep. Some of these signs include:

  • Needing to be awakened in the morning by more than one alarm
  • Sleeping 2 or more extra hours on weekends
  • Falling asleep in school or other inappropriate places
  • Behavior or mood changes following a night of insufficient or poor-quality sleep

Here are some tips and resources families can use to help their adolescent get adequate sleep every night, as well as other family resources.