Healthy Start for Cincinnati Teenagers

by Kim Perry (Business Analyst)

How buses, a board, and a Business Analyst helped impact a community initiative

I am a parent of a Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) teenage high school student. About 3 years ago, I became aware of research connecting early school start times with serious health and safety issues for teenagers. Since 50% of the CPS high schools start as early as 7:30am, I was concerned that our high school kids were at risk. I joined a committee of dedicated parents to see if we could move all CPS high schools to a healthy start time.

Many on the committee are doctors involved in various aspects of pediatric medicine. We leveraged their medical expertise to convince the CPS Board of Education, CPS Administration, and parent community that the science supporting healthy start times for high schools is sound. Drawing on my Business Analysis experience, my role was to present research at CPS board meetings, analyze data and try to gain support in the community. This included reaching out to Mayor John Cranley’s office about the seriousness of this issue. The mayor’s office was convinced by our petition, and they responded by writing a letter of support to the CPS school board.

Mayor Cranley’s letter to the Board of Education states, “Cincinnati deeply values opportunities to improve our school system. I hope that (the Board of Education) will consider working with the School Start Time initiative to find a pragmatic solution that benefits our children, recognizing that our students are our future, and that we must cater to their needs to ensure we develop the qualified leaders of Cincinnati for decades to come.”

Recognizing that our students are our future,

we must cater to their needs to ensure we develop

qualified leaders of Cincinnati for decades to come.

As we dug into the logistics of making the change to the start times, we identified bus transportation as a major hurdle. Since CPS contracts with Cincinnati Metro (our public transportation system), an earlier start time would require adjustments to the current bus system. The committee worked to gather transportation data and teamed with the CPS Transportation Department. We reviewed route, schedule, and usage data to find enough efficiencies and cost reductions to form a transportation plan that accomplished healthy start times and was financially feasible.

Our work is paying off. At the April 15, 2019 CPS Board of Education meeting – the Board passed a resolution mandating a three-year Healthy High School Start Time implementation plan, commencing in 2019-2020.

CPS Board Member Eve Bolton announced the change and advocated our position afterward on WCPO: “The major ‘whys’ are health, safety, and performance. National statistics indicate that all teenagers need more sleep than the rest of us. CPS decided to make sure that our particular schedule – based on buses more than anything else – did not make it impossible for them to go and have the opportunities physiologically that teenagers need. We believe this ‘Healthy Start’ will allow them to be safer, healthier, and also a higher performance.”

“If we move even somewhat, we will then have our teenagers not out during the darker periods of the day. We’ve had 2 fatalities of our children in this semester, and we’ve had 13 of our kids struck by vehicles. That added to the urgency. This has been an almost three year effort by community members and medical professionals to try to get our school district to move into this more progressive position.”

This has been an almost three year effort by

community members and medical professionals

to try to get our school district to move.

The committee is not done – we are pursuing an opportunity to bring experienced data scientists together with Metro and the CPS Transportation Department to evaluate the overall transportation situation later this summer. However, we have made significant progress that will have an effect for years to come.

Author

Kim Perry