As the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continues to change life as we know it, the question of how to safely and effectively re-open schools in the fall has been on the mind of students, parents, city officials and educators alike. The idea of staggered schedules, or what is sometimes called 'double shifts' at schools, has been brought up in California and other states around the country.

Personally, as a parent of a 16-year-old, I'm very much in favor of school adjusting to teenagers sleep schedules, rather than the other way around. I would be in favor of seeing this happen for middle schools too. Many American schools have seen success, and improvement of scores and overall health, simply by moving school day start time to 9 a.m. According to Psychology Today, benefits of starting school later than 8:30 include better academic performance, fewer absences and better health.

To nobody's surprise, teenagers prefer to stay up later at night and sleep in, but it's not just their preference, it's actually biological. It's natural for teenagers not to be able to fall asleep before 11 p.m., and it's best for teens to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, meaning, they should go to bed after 11 p.m. and wake up no earlier than 7 a.m. So when we're forcing our kids to wake up at 6 a.m. and be thrust into a learning situation at 7:50 in the morning, it's fighting their biology, mix that with hormones and no wonder you get attitude sometimes (or many times, for some.)

With that said, why are ANY of us getting up at 5 a.m.? It's ridiculous and it makes humans cranky. There are, of course, negatives to implementing staggered schedules or double shifts for any of the public schools, chiefly, a budget. Splitting up start times would mean running buses twice as much, and I can't even imagine what it would mean for educators, and their salary. I also know that just a half hour time difference can suck for parents. For instance, here in Missoula, some kids get out of school at 3 and some at 3:30, and for working parents with multiple kids, that can be a nightmare.

There's so much to consider as plans are made for back to school in the fall. Considering where we are currently with the pandemic, would you support a split schedule in the fall? For any grades or just teens? Would you support starting school later, pandemic or not? Do you think that students who are thriving with distance learning should have an opportunity to choose to do some courses this way permanently? What would be the best solution for your own children? Should we just stick with 7:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and keep on trucking?

Currently for school district #1, school is scheduled to start on August 26th, 2020, for K through 9th grade, and the rest the following day. Considering how much changed for us between February 1st to now, only time will tell what will change for our students this fall.

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