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Cherry Creek School District to consider changing start times

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- It's no secret that high school kids have a hard time getting going in the morning.

After hearing from thousands of parents, students in the Cherry Creek School District could be changing their alarm clocks next school year. The district is the fourth largest in the state with more than 55,000 students

"Getting up at 5 or 6 a.m. to catch the buses is really early for students and it’s really tiring,” said Jaela Richardson, a student at Cherry Creek High who was sitting at a Starbucks near the school.

Those buses would start running later for high school and middle school student under the proposed changes.

Currently, high schools start at 7:10 a.m., middle schools between 7:50 a.m. and 8:10 a.m., and elementary schools at 9 a.m. Under the proposed changes, elementary schools would start at 7:55 a.m., high schools at 8:15 a.m. and middle schools at 8:50 a.m.

"I usually don't always finish my homework the day before,” said sixth-grader Caroline Pemberton, who was shopping with her dad.

“Having more time in the morning, that will be good for her,” he said.

"It matches what kids' bodies need to be most successful that has been overwhelmingly supported,” said Scott Siegfried, the Cherry Creek associate superintendent for educational operations.

After nearly two years of study, the district asked parents to weigh in on shifting older kids' start time to about an hour later and younger kids about an hour earlier.

"Overwhelmingly, over 73 percent of those families told us that this is something we needed to do something about. We needed to fix this issue,” Siegfried said.

"She'll be able to, I guess, sleep in a little bit. She has trouble getting up in the morning, so that's good. I think it maybe helps with their studying,” said Tim Butler, who was shopping with his daughter Brynn.

"Usually, I have to go to bed late because of the amount of homework I have and sports, so if you're an athlete, it's even harder,” Cherry Creek basketball player Jana Van Gytenbeek said.

Because of budget constraints during the recession, the district shifted older kids to earlier start times. But research shows those students were more inclined to sleep in class and to get into accidents.

Research also shows high school-aged kids who get a good sleep perform better not only on the athletic field but in the classroom.

But the district admits it might force some juggling for some parents.

"We're actually going to open our middle schools up at 8, which is our current start time, so parents can drop their kids off and go in the cafeteria. They'll be supervised. They can eat breakfast and do homework," Siegfried said.

"Because of the later time, we'll get out of school later and that pushes after-school activities back, but that's really the only negative comment,” said Jaela Richardson, who plays basketball at Cherry Creek.

"For parents too because like it'll be easier for them to get their kids to school before work and all that stuff and pick them up after, and I think it will be easier for everyone,” Brynn Butler said.