Saratoga Springs schools to look at start times; Other county districts, Schenectady, Niskayuna considered


SARATOGA SPRINGS — School District Superintendent Michael Patton is reviewing data collected seven years ago regarding later start times before he presents his findings to the school board, which is contemplating looking at its start times again.

“This is a topic that comes up every few years,” Patton said. 

During the board’s most recent meeting, school board Vice President Natalya Lakhtakia asked to create a committee to look at start times. However, many board members agreed that they should hear the previous data collected before deciding whether they should look into it again. 

Patton said none of the board members or he were school officials the last time the district reviewed its start times.

The district’s high school and middle school currently start at 7:50 a.m.

Start times for other districts in Saratoga County, according to their websites, include: 

  • Ballston Spa High School students arrive at 7:26 a.m.  
  • Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School students start at 7:50 a.m. and middle-schoolers begin at 7:45 a.m.
  • Mechanicville City School District junior and senior students arrive at 7:30 a.m. with classes starting at 7:47 a.m.
  • Galway students in grades six through 12 start at 7:50 a.m. 
  • Shenendehowa High School students start at 8:06 a.m.

School start times should be set at 8:30 a.m. or later for high school students to ensure they get sleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

More: All NewsEverything Saratoga Springs-Ballston Spa

In Schenectady County, the Niskayuna Central School District dropped the high school start time from 7:40 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. during the 2021-2022 school year.

“So if they’re more awake, more alert, more rested you’d hope they’re more attentive in classes,” said John Rickert, the Niskayuna High School principal. 

Transportation was one of the major challenges the district looked at prior to changing its start times, Rickert said. 

Rickert said they had to look at bus routes for arrival and departure but also for afterschool activities like sports. 

While it’s not as much as an issue in the spring, schools have to deal with darkness in the fall. On top of that the district has to work with other school sport schedules. To ensure students make games during the weekday they will sometimes get dismissed early.

While that has always happened, Rickert said more students are affected by it now since the change in start times.

Patton said the Saratoga Springs district also will need to look at busing. The district is so large it has two runs in the morning that will need to be reviewed if start times change, Patton said. The district will also need to take into account the non-public school students it shuttles as well.

“A lot of the neighboring private schools that fall within our district boundaries, we transport those students to those programs,” he said.

He said they’ll also have to look at when the BOCES programs start to ensure students are making it to those programs.

“You just have to be aware of the ripple effect it’s going to have on all programs, not just our internal school-based programs,” he said.

But Rickert said the change has gone over well with students, staff and parents, according to results from a survey the district conducted in spring 2022.

But that is only anecdotal information, Rickert said. Because of the timing of implementing the change and the pandemic’s impact on school operations, the district hasn’t been able to fully study and see the effects of later start times.

“We’re hoping to use this year as a little bit of a baseline to take a look at it,” Rickert said.

In the Schenectady City School District, high schoolers have had a later start time — 8:30 a.m. — than many other schools in the area for over 13 years.

“It’s been in place longer than the school leadership and the students in high school so it’s what we know at this point,” said Karen Corona, the district spokesperson.

More: All NewsEverything Saratoga Springs-Ballston Spa


Categories: News, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

One Comment


I believe the original study I read about many years ago (10+years) was conducted in Ohio but the start time was much later then Niskayuna.

The article was based on the sleep cycle of teenagers who are nocturnal by nature (like college age) and how the current schedule is set up to prepare them for the workforce but their circadian cycles are not there yet. The weather was not mentioned in the original study.

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