For several months, a committee of school officials and parents has been discussing possible changes to school start times. One proposal would push Staples High’s day back by almost an hour. Other changes would affect middle and elementary schools.
It’s part of a national movement, based on data about teenagers’ sleep habits.
But the issue is not black-and-white. An email rocketing around town offers counter-arguments, focused on Staples — based not on the start time, but rather the end of the school day. Here is an edited version:
Greenwich instituted a change last year, and suffered some negative effects by not sufficiently considering the end time. They “solved” this problem by decreasing instructional minutes of every class, and adding an end-of-day “opportunity block.” Students can work on school pursuits, or be excused early for athletic or other after-school commitments.
Will Westport make a similar change, cutting back the academic focus for our students in the name of more sleep?
The obvious benefit of the proposal is that students get more sleep, alleviate stress and are more productive during the day.
The detriment is the compressed afternoon schedule, which provides students 1 less hour of post-school time every day. Many believe students will stay up later to accomplish all they need to get done during the day.
Athletes will be released early more often for games, resulting in missed classes. In Greenwich the number of early releases in the fall increased by 147%. The total number of missed classes increased 233%.
Because some teams practice and play on fields without lights, schedules are already extremely tight. Impacts would be felt not only for high school teams, but for youth programs (lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, etc.) that use those fields after Staples teams.
Staples has many time-intensive activities, including Players, Inklings, Orphenians, Model UN, Science Olympiad and others. Asking advisors to stay an extra hour might be impossible; they have their own families and lives. The alternative is to shorten the amount of time students spend on these activities, severely curtailing their excellence.
Many Staples students participate in non-school activities, like Saugatuck Rowing Club, dance, youth orchestras, religious youth groups and Scouting, along with programs like driver’s ed. Some might be able to change their schedules; other cannot. As with other commitments, the result is either less time, or ending an hour later — which would push homework and other evening activities back too.
That’s also true for after-school jobs too, like babysitting, tutoring and others.
A Greenwich report notes that 44% of students said the new start time negatively impacted their school-related extracurricular activities — and 58% of students said the same about their extracurriculars outside of school.
Regarding stress, 40% of students in Greenwich reported a “very negative or negative effect.” 36% reported “no change,” while 22% described a “positive or very positive effect.”
The Greenwich High principal noted that “the well-intended focus on the beginning of the day now needs the same attention to the end of the day.”
What do you think about possible changes to the beginning and end of the school day? Click “Comments” below.