School Committee group weighs possibility of earlier school start time

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Students arrive late, around 8:00 a.m.

Samantha Fredberg

by Samantha Fredberg
Newton School Committee recently released findings regarding students’ opinions in an ongoing investigation on a later start time at North and South, including student surveys on the subject.
The School Committee founded the High School Start Time Working Group in September to advocate for a later high school start time. According to its information session presentations on Jan. 25, the working group is aiming to collect and analyze student data and formulate a road map in the 2015-2016 school year.
“We are in the early stages of trying to get enough information to work out a potential scenario in which student’s health is accommodated and extra curriculars can happen,” said Newton School Committee member Ruth Goldman, a member of the Working Group.
According to Goldman, the roadmap will outline the Working Group’s goals and plan to achieve a later start time.
The information session on Jan. 25 updated parents and students on the Working Group’s stage, said Goldman.
There are several reasons for the exploration of a later start time. The issue of start times became apparent due to health studies and consideration of schools that have pushed back their start times, according to Goldman.
“Last year the American Pediatric Association and Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines stating that a later high school start time has health and wellness benefits for adolescents, and that is what we are taking into consideration,” said Goldman. According to a CDC press release in August 2015, the recommended high school start time is 8:30 a.m. Currently, North starts at 7:50 a.m., and South starts at 7:40 a.m.
The working group faces a challenge in finding a start time that accommodates both health and after school commitments, according to Goldman. A survey by the Working Group states that the majority of students work, play a sport, or take care of a younger sibling after school. Many students say that a later start time would cause school to interfere with their scheduled job times, practices, or family schedules.
Many students have varying opinions on the idea of a later start time. “I think that school starting later would be a disaster for a lot of people,” said sophomore Hayley Soehle, “In the fall, during field hockey season, I typically get home around 5:45 p.m. on practice days, so I wouldn’t get home until seven if it gets changed,”
Freshman Julia Greenblatt recognizes the importance of sleep, but believes that “we should start late on only a couple days of the week” because many students have after-school commitments. “If we only have it twice a week it’s a nice compromise,” said Greenblatt.  
In a survey presented in the Jan. 25 Working Group presentation, students agree that high schools require a later start time, yet disagree with the notion of a later end time.
The working group has no more scheduled informational sessions, but according to Goldman, they hope to have potential new start times by the end of the year.