School Committee Start Time Public Forum

September 2018

The School Committee is committed to addressing the health and wellness of our students, and an important piece of that is our initiative to evaluate changing our school start times.  We have been reviewing the research, hearing from students, parents, and staff, considering the pros and cons of alternative scenarios, and evaluating various ideas for improving on the scenarios. We will be holding public forums over the course of the fall, and thought this was a good time to update the community on where we are, and the path forward towards our decision.

 

The key points we want to relay:

 

  • Science supports later times for teens for health and safety reasons.
  • The School Committee is committed to changing start times to align with guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), starting in the fall of 2019.
  • The School Committee is seeking community input to help us determine which option is best. We will be holding forums in the fall and expect to make a final decision in mid-November. (See below for specific dates.)

 

The Science

 

We have undertaken this initiative because of overwhelming research in the field of sleep science that points to the risks of too early start times for our middle and high school students, and the resulting benefits of moving their school start times later. These risks span physical and emotional impacts, including detrimental impacts on depression and anxiety, drowsy driving, athletic injury rates and athletic performance, accident rates of all types, obesity and diabetes, and impacts on learning through, for example, memory and attention span. Parents can help by working with teens to establish healthy sleep habits, but the research has shown that good sleep hygiene alone is not enough to allow teens to get the sleep they need. The sleep-wake cycle of teenagers differs from that of both younger children and adults, and pushes them to have more difficulty getting to sleep earlier and waking earlier. Our students require both more sleep, and sleep at more appropriate hours.  For those who want to learn more, information on the research  is online here.

 

Our Commitment

 

While we strongly support the notion of moving our start times later, we understand there are complications in adjusting schedules, for all of our students (those in high school, middle school, and our younger students in elementary school, in Wayland and in Boston), our parents and our teachers. We are working hard to select a start time scenario that appropriately balances the needs of all these constituents.

 

One obvious complication is that because we use the same buses to transport our high school and middle school students as we do for our elementary students, any adjustment in start time for the older students requires changes to the schedule for the younger ones, as well.  Other complications include scheduling for sports and other extracurricular activities, and adjustments to schedules for teachers and parents.

 

Having looked last fall in detail at a schedule that moves start times later for all students, we determined that we would prefer to find a solution that moves our older students’ start time later, and our younger students’ start time earlier. We did not, however, reject this solution completely, unanimously agreeing that it was preferable to our current start times. In other words, we are committed to making a change in our start times, what remains is to determine precisely what that change will be.  (A timeline of our work to date is online here.)

 

The scenarios we are looking at, roughly, would start elementary school between 7:45 and 8:00am, and high school at 8:30 to 8:45am (with corresponding adjustments to the day’s end times). Scenario details are online here.

 

Among variations under exploration:

  • when to hold professional development at the Middle School and High School (with possible implications for whether we continue to have early release days, or instead spread those minutes over all five days)
  • whether to retain the morning break in the high school schedule
  • analysis of bus routes looking for efficiencies that might enable shorter transportation times
  • cost-benefit analysis of additional buses to shorten bus routes
  • changes within the high school schedule to minimize impact on sports schedules

 

Community Input/Forums

This fall, we will be holding several meetings to hear from students, parents and teachers on their thoughts on the various alternatives, before making a final decision in mid-November. 

 

Our tentative schedule is as follows:

  • October 10 - morning meeting with parents (in Wayland)
  • October 15 - meeting with Wayland teaching staff
  • October 17 - evening meeting with parents (in Wayland)
  • November 5 - evening meeting with parents (in Boston)
  • November 19 - target date for final decision

 

We have resources on our website (online here) that include information on sleep and start times, presentation materials and reports, and the scenarios under consideration. We encourage all residents to learn more about what we are doing and why, to attend our forums, and to provide their feedback on the various options.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any thoughts or concerns.  As always, thank you for your support.

 

Jeanne Downs, Chair (jeanne_downs@wayland.k12.ma.us)

Ellen Grieco, Vice Chair (ellen_grieco@wayland.k12.ma.us)

Nate Buffum (nate_buffum@wayland.k12.ma.us)

Kim Reichelt (kim_reichelt@wayland.k12.ma.us)

Kathie Steinberg (kathie.steinberg@wayland.k12.ma.us)

 

 

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