After outcry, Atlanta Public Schools changes high school start time

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring updated school start times for the 2021-2022 school year. Curtis Compton / AJC FILE PHOTO
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Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring updated school start times for the 2021-2022 school year. Curtis Compton / AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta high school students won’t need to wake up quite as early as they’d feared in the upcoming school year.

After criticism from students and parents over an Atlanta Public Schools’ plan to start high school 45 minutes earlier next year, at 7:45 a.m., the district is changing course.

Superintendent Lisa Herring on Monday announced a new high school start time of 8:45 a.m. for the school year beginning in August. That’s 15 minutes later than the 2020-2021 year, and a full hour later than an initial plan that drew protests.

Herring acknowledged concerns from some who said the district should have done more to seek public input earlier.

On Monday, she gave assurances “that we will work all the more diligently with making certain that the community and stakeholders are involved, included and heard when major actions are under consideration.”

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She apologized to those who thought their opinion wasn’t sought.

“Your voice is always important,” she said.

Schedules for elementary and middle schools also will shift. Herring said the elementary day will start 15 minutes earlier and end 15 minutes later next year. The day will begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m.

Middle school will begin at 9:15 a.m. and end at 4:15 p.m.

Herring touched off a wave of opposition in early May when she announced different start times. The loudest voices were those concerned about the high school changes.

ExploreAtlanta students, parents push back on earlier high school start time

Research recommends high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to give teens the chance to get the sleep they need.

APS said the bell schedule changes were driven by transportation needs stemming from the district’s decision to extend the elementary school day by 30 minutes. Having the youngest children in school longer will give schools more time to spend on academic recovery, a move officials say is needed after the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

But the elementary school changes will impact bus schedules throughout the district.

After critics blasted the new high school start time, Herring said she’d give time to solicit public input on the decision.

She said she took that feedback “very seriously” when adjusting the start times.

The district sent out an electronic survey about two weeks ago. It generated 6,240 responses, largely from parents in the North Atlanta and Midtown parts of the district.

Nearly three quarters of respondents favored starting high school later, the option APS ultimately selected.