Portland High’s school day would start 15 minutes earlier and end five minutes later under one of several proposals to be considered Tuesday by the School Board to give students more instructional time.

The earlier start time is one of five options to be considered by the board. The other four would start school after 8 a.m., but would cost more because they require more buses. The proposals will be discussed, but not voted on, at Tuesday’s meeting.

At the School Board’s last meeting, Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said a majority of members opposed having high school students begin earlier than their current 8 a.m. start time.

“All the research shows that you should start high schoolers later,” Thompson said. “I am not a supporter of starting high schoolers any earlier than we have to.”

The board approved a new schedule in December that adds 20 minutes to each school day, but it has not voted on where those minutes should be added. The board plans to implement the change this fall.

The changes are intended to create more learning time for students and more professional development time for teachers. They were part of a teachers contract approved by the Portland Education Association in December that also gives teachers 180 more minutes of professional development time each week, creating a 7½-hour workday.

Experts say additional class time gives students the chance for more help, a reinforced science and math curriculum, and the opportunity for more “electives” such as art and music. A report from the National Center on Time & Learning, which advocates for more instruction time, cites a study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, which found that one of the best predictors of academic success was adding at least 300 hours to the standard school calendar.


Research into teenagers’ sleep patterns found that most teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which also found that sleep deprivation among adolescents can impair daytime functioning. The foundation says high school students would be better served by starting their school day later, not earlier.

Some Portland students didn’t like the idea of starting earlier.

“It’s hard enough waking up and getting to school on time as it is,” said Charles Barnard, a Portland High junior.

Added Kaylyn Madore, a fellow junior: “I’d just be more tired, and I don’t think better when I’m tired.”

Other students said they probably wouldn’t go to bed any earlier to accommodate an earlier start. They would just sleep less.

Cooper Collins, a junior, said an earlier start would be especially hard for younger students who take the bus.

Hayleigh Blanchard, a sophomore, likes the idea of starting a little earlier, but only if it means getting out earlier, too.

“It’s hard to get up now, but what’s another 15 minutes?” she said.


Under the new schedule, the extra 20 minutes will create a 6½-hour school day for students starting this fall. There will be fewer days in the school year – 178, down from 180 – but students will end up attending 46 more hours of class.

The state requires that students attend a minimum of 175 instructional days a year. Local school districts set the length of their school day, but under state law, the average instructional day must be at least five hours long, and no individual day can be less than three hours.

The earlier start time is getting a closer look because it’s the only option that can be done within the current budget.

High school now begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 2:10 p.m. Under the earlier start time, the day would run from 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

The schedule for middle schools, which currently have staggered start times, would be 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., except for King Middle School, which would have an earlier schedule to allow island residents time to catch a 2:45 p.m. ferry.

Elementary schools would be split into two groups, with one group starting earlier and the other starting later. Under the proposal, East End, Longfellow, Lyseth and Presumpscot would run from 8:35 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., while Hall, Riverton, Ocean Avenue and Reiche would run from 8:55 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.


The other four options for the high school schedule – all with start times after 8 a.m. and as late as 8:55 a.m. – would each cost between $1 million and $1.5 million to implement because they would require more buses to get all the students to school, according to a memo from Jeanne Crocker, director of school management for the district.

Alison Andreasen, the parent of a Portland High school senior, thinks starting the school day earlier is a bad idea, not just for students, but for working parents.

“As a working mom, getting them out of the house and then to my job at 8 a.m. is stressful enough,” said Andreasen, whose two grown children, ages 25 and 21, graduated from Portland schools.

She agreed that students would not adjust their schedules the night before and would likely just go to school more sleep-deprived.


The School Board also will discuss Tuesday whether to start school on the Wednesday before Labor Day this fall.

Starting Sept. 2 “provides more instructional time before student assessments and allows an earlier end to the school year,” according to the memo.

Labor Day falls on Monday, Sept. 7, this year. Several schools in the state have traditionally started school before Labor Day, but Portland students usually begin after the holiday.

“As a parent, I’ve always wanted to start before Labor Day,” said Thompson, noting that many camps are closed during that time, causing a hardship for parents seeking child care. She also noted the current run of snow days – six in Portland so far this school year – and that starting the year earlier means any potential snow “make-up” days won’t stretch into the summer break.

“I think the only hangup people have is they travel over the Labor Day weekend. I think that would be one of the only issues,” she said of the proposal.

Andreasen wouldn’t mind seeing school start before Labor Day.

“It makes more sense than tacking on days in June when (students) aren’t really doing much,” she said.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.