Local News

Dixon Public Schools seeks input on later start time

District provides information, links to research and asks the community to consider all the ramifications before responding to survey

Dixon Public Schools Superintendent Margo Empen appears in a video where she asks community members to provide input on a recommendation to start the school day at 8:30 a.m. in the 2022-23 school year.

DIXON – Should Dixon Public Schools push back the first morning bell to 8:30 a.m.?

The district reached out to the community on Thursday, posting a video and a link to a survey on its main website.

It wants input on the recommendation that the school day for the 2022-23 school year start later than it does presently, which is 7:45 a.m.

School dismissal would change too, from 2:15 to 3 p.m.

In the video, Superintendent Margo Empen, Dixon High School Principal Michael Grady and Reagan Middle School Matthew Magnafici ask members of the public to go to www.dps170.org to review an information sheet and respond to an online survey on the subject.

“We need your voice,” Empen says in the video.

But the administrators also urged participants to take time to examine the data, consider all the ramifications of the change and to engage in their own research on the topic before logging on and taking the survey.

Because changing the start time will have an effect on traffic patterns, bus schedules, event scheduling and the availability of day care (and associated costs), the residents of Dixon are asked for their feedback regardless of whether they have students enrolled in the schools.

The district’s Community Engagement Committee, as well as two subcommittees, has been examining the issue during the fall months. Empen has researched how other districts have handled such changes.

The impetus for a later start time comes from a body of research, some of it conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The former groups both recommend that middle school and high school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. local time. Most of the reasons for having later wake times have to do with adolescent sleep patterns and cultural considerations, such as extra-curricular activities and jobs extending into evening hours.

Shorting the sleep of students can result in poor school performance, obesity, increase symptoms of depression, and cause risk-taking, injuries from athletics and accidents in motor vehicles, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says.

There is also analysis of data from 2020 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows a benefit to academic achievement in reading test scores among female students.

The CDC, meanwhile, has analyzed data from 2011-12 by the U.S. Department of Education that shows most high schools start at 8 a.m. Another study from 2014 showed that 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools in the U.S. start before 8:30.

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for Saukvalley.com and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.