Editorial: The Time is Now to Change School Start Time

Honors Journalism Class ’19
EE Contributors

At the February 26 Board of Education meeting, the public learned that there is a committee looking into options for making a change to the start time at the high school.  Dr. Jonathan Costa, Assistant Executive Director at EdAdvance, one of Connecticut’s six Regional Educational Service Centers, and Superintendent Cialfi both said that the science behind changing the start time for high school students is clear: the American Psychological Association, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, were all cited by Dr. Cialfi as institutions who concur.  He also said that the research is there and we “must listen to the medical profession.”

While the research on teenager’s sleep cycle is clear, what is less clear is how to go about making the change.  We recognize that any option would necessarily have challenges in implementation and would require compromises as well as some real adjustments on the part of the community as a whole.  A time change would impact not only students at the high school but at all schools. It would disrupt sports schedules, work schedules, and daycare schedules.

While no recommendation was made on the 26th, Dr. Costa presented two possible options for making a change at little to no cost.  The first would be to switch start times for high school and middle school with the start time for elementary schools. While this would be the easiest change with the least potential disruption to the school district, we recognize that there would be some wary of putting elementary school students on the bus in the dark.  However, it would be important to get a sense of the public’s perspective on this before making a decision. As BOE member Dr. Fearon pointed out at the February 26 meeting, some parents might not be opposed to the idea. There are some parents who would see the benefit to putting their younger students on the bus earlier because, in many cases, the parents accompany their younger students to the bus anyway.  In addition, younger students take less time to get ready in the morning and are easier to get to the bus stop on time. Given the option, it is not unreasonable to think that many parents would prefer that if it meant that their high school student would be better prepared for the school day.

Another option that was mentioned at the BOE meeting was a 30 minute change to the high school start time by changing the bus schedule by 15 minutes and then finding 15 minutes in efficiencies in the high school schedule.  For example, students will tell you the 10 minutes of homeroom are not productive and would be a great place to start looking for time, if there was going to be changes to the schedule. Trumbull is also in the unique position of having the longest school day in the state by almost 30 minutes and could find time in the current schedule to recapture for the student health benefits that the science clearly supports.   

We are confident that a solution to this challenge can be found–Newtown school district went to an 8:00 start time for their high school this year (elementary school starts at 9:05), and there are other schools who are looking into it as well.  If other districts can do it, then so should we. It’s time for the district to heed the call coming from students and scientists–even though it will be a challenge, it’s time to change the start of the school day for high school students.

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