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New School Start/End Times for 2021-2022

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New School Start/End Times for 2021-2022
Posted on 05/20/2021
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The Portland Board of Public Education voted on May 18 to adjust school start and end times for the 2021-2022 school year, starting this fall. The adjustments build off the schedule changes made this year during the COVID-19 pandemic and move the district closer to its goal of having later start times for its secondary school students.

The Board also voted to adopt a resolution committing it to make secondary school start times consistent with scientific adolescent sleep knowledge for the 2022-23 school year. Extensive research shows that adolescent biorhythms are inconsistent with traditional school schedules. Studies show that starting school later can help adolescents get enough sleep and improve their health, academic performance, and quality of life.

Board members directed the Superintendent to use the coming school year to educate the community about the importance of making this change and understanding the challenges associated with start time changes.

“I'm thrilled that we have taken this step to start to align our start times with the science on adolescent development,” said Board Chair Emily Figdor. “It's long overdue and will have a big impact on everything from students' ability to learn to their mental health and well-being. I know we're asking a lot of families who will need to adjust schedules and logistics, but the benefits to our older students really do justify it. And I look forward to seeing if we can further push back middle and high school start times for the 2022-2023 school year and beyond.”

 The approved 2021-2022 schedule has middle and high schools (except PATHS) starting at 8:20 a.m. and ending at 2:50 p.m. That is a somewhat later start than in pre-pandemic times. The change will not significantly impact after-school programming (athletics and co-curricular activities) at secondary schools, or students’ ability to work. The schedule at PATHS (Portland Arts and Technology High School) will be 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 For East End, Longfellow, Ocean Avenue and Talbot elementary schools, the day will start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m. Lyseth, Presumpscot, Reiche and Rowe elementary schools will start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. Staggered times are necessary to allow for school buses to be able to provide transportation to students at all the schools.

District island schools will keep their pre-pandemic schedules: 8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for Cliff and 8:20 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. for Peaks. Portland Rec and other before- and after-school care partner sites will align to the schools’ schedules.

Among concerns raised by parents and staff about the new schedule were complaints that the start time for some of the elementary schools is too early and that the new secondary times don’t mesh well with Casco Bay Ferry schedules, requiring some students to arrive on the mainland before school starts and leave before the school day ends. Superintendent Xavier Botana said the district will work to the greatest extent possible to mitigate such concerns by ensuring that students coming from islands have the supervision they need while waiting for school to start, and working with the Portland Recreation Department to provide for before- and after-school care.

The Board’s resolution directs the superintendent to explore options for the 2022-2023 school year that have secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m and elementary school students no earlier than 8 a.m.

Below is a summary of start and end times for the 2021-2022 school year:

Tier 1 7:40    2:10    East End, Longfellow, Ocean Avenue, Talbot

Tier 2 8:20    2:50    Middle Schools and High Schools (except PATHS)

Tier 3 9:00    3:30    Lyseth, Presumpscot, Reiche, Rowe

PATHS 8:00 to 10:30 and 11:00 to 1:30

Island Schools stay the same: Cliff 8:20-3:15 and Peaks 8:20-3:05

Pre-kindergarten students attending district elementary schools will follow those schools’ schedules. PreK students attending the PATHS PreK program, Youth and Family Outreach, Catherine Morrill Day Nursery and St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center will follow a 9-3:30 schedule. PreK students attending Children’s Odyssey will attend from 7:40- 2:10.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Board’s May 18 business meeting. The discussion of start/end times begins about 55 minutes in and concludes after the Board votes on the new schedule and the resolution near the end of the meeting.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school meals.