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School Start Times Summary Report

The Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was eager to seek the opinion of parents, students, staff and community members about a later start time at the high school level.

Would you support the idea? Why or why not?

To find the answers, the school district partnered with a company called ThoughtExchange, an online platform that offers stakeholders a way to share thoughts, ideas and feedback about a specific topic during a designated time period. For the later start discussion, comments were collected for four weeks between April - May.

ThoughtExchange is similar to Facebook. When an individual posts an opinion or comment, other people can acknowledge their support by clicking on a star, similar to clicking the Facebook Like button. The difference, however, is comments are posted without reference to identity.

A total of 1,194 people posted 1,321 thoughts/comments about the later start idea on the school district’s website.

The largest group of respondents was high school students, 323, followed by high school parents/guardians, 192, and elementary parents/guardians rounding out the top three with 148 participants.

The remaining 531 people sharing their thoughts with CPS included the following:

  • 125 - Elementary and high school parent
  • 97 - Staff
  • 36 - Community member
  • 31 - Elementary student
  • 17 - Other

“I want to thank everyone who participated in our first ThoughtExchange survey,” said Superintendent Laura Mitchell.

There has been conversation in our community about the pros and cons of adjusting the high school start time with questions arising about cost, impact on extracurricular activities and academic performance.

Currently, several CPS high schools begin their day at 7:30 a.m., including Aiken, Clark Montessori and Walnut Hills. Meanwhile, other CPS high schools offer later start times: Hughes STEM, 8:35 am; Gamble Montessori, 8:40 am; Riverview East, 9:15 am.

Research shows that a later school start time improves students’ health. In a national study of urban teenagers, researchers found that high school start times after 8:30 a.m. increased the likelihood that teens obtained the minimum recommended amount of sleep, benefiting their overall health and well-being.

According to the CPS ThoughtExchange survey, many comments and opinions about later start times were linked to health benefits for students. “Teens are experiencing an epidemic of mental health challenges and it is our responsibility as a community to do everything we can to support them,” reads an online comment. A total of 29 people supported this comment by marking it with a star.

Another comment posted on the survey said, “Our teenage kids are chronically sleep deprived. An extra hour of sleep in the morning would make a huge difference.”

While many comments were related to the health benefits, many people thought a later start time will also have a big impact on students’ ability to learn and academic success. One comment read: “Studies show that children’s sleep directly relates to learning capacity, retention and academic performance.”

“Children are not able to focus on learning when they are sleep deprived,” reads another comment.

It is difficult to talk about adjusting the high school start time without thinking about the ramifications on high school athletic schedules. Many people cited the fact that other CPS schools start later with insignificant impact on the sports programs. One comment reads, “Other CPS 7-12 schools have late start times. The students there are able to participate in after-school activities without a problem.” Twenty-two people concur with this comment.

Other people expressed their support for the idea by noting other large school districts across the country making the move as stated in the following post, “Accountable and successful school districts around the country like Houston and Denver moved to later start times.” Twenty-nine other people agree with this comment.

Transportation may be a possible hurdle, as noted in the following comment,” The only negative seems to be the increased cost of buses, a real concern. However, where there is a will, there is a way.”

“Changing bus schedules may be inconvenient and expensive, but it does not justify continuing to use outdated practices such as early start times,” another comment reads.

Read more comments about adjusting the high school start time.

Your opinion matters. The district plans to offer more ThoughtExchange surveys. “There will be other opportunities for you to weigh-in on important issues using this same survey method,” said Superintendent Mitchell.

Members of the community interested in participating in our next ThoughtExchange should call 513-363-0000 for more information. Parents and staff will be notified via email.

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