Date no longer converting after editing content

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We are attempting to modify the schema for a slider on our client's home page. This slider is editable using the Shopify schema. We added a field for Start Date and End Date. The values are coming through and convert to date when you first create a fresh slide. 

 

However, if you edit the values for an existing slide, the values no longer convert to a date. For instance:

 

{% assign sd =  block.settings.startdate | date: '%s' %}

The fresh new slide converts the date '12-9-2019 9:15 AM' to '1568294100'. If I were to edit it, the variable after conversion is equal to the original string. 

 

Is it possible that the edited value is no longer a string? I've tried escaping the string first but it doesn't help.

Could really use some assistance here.

Thanks.

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