[OPINION] School Start Time Discussion Should Consider End Times Too

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.

A new start time for Staples High School?

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.

Hundreds of Staples High School students are involved in sports, music, after-school clubs, and activities like Staples Players. Changing the start time would also affect the end time of school — and the timing of those activities. (Photo/Kerry Long)

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.

68 responses to “[OPINION] School Start Time Discussion Should Consider End Times Too

  1. Seems like a solution looking for a problem. .

    Good luck making everyone happy.

  2. After years of burning the candle at both ends, I had to learn sleep hygiene, which has served me well. It seems the problem isn’t start times, but poor sleep habits. Maybe another way to attack the problem?

    • Sleep hygiene is important too but, according to the AMA, CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, all pediatricians in Westport, and the list goes on… even with the best sleep hygiene the average teenager cannot fall asleep before 11:00 P.M. This is due to a circadian rhythm shift that takes place starting during puberty and then shifts back during the 20s. You can read more about it here: http://sleepforsuccesswestport.com/the-science/

  3. Valerie Ann Leff

    I believe that both the start time and end time desperately need to be pushed back for the sake of the kids’ and their families’ health. Athletes should never be required or even allowed to miss their classes. Extracurricular activities can adjust – shorter sports practice times, rehearsals, etc. Wilton has already made the change, Greenwich has, and Ridgefield will in fall 2019. If Westport does, too, the other schools will follow suit, and the althletics teams in the area will all be on a “level playing field.” Health, a solid academic education and a sane schedule are way more important than any extracurricular “excellence”.

  4. Maybe we can call all employer’s and ask them for later start times? Whatdayathink?

    • Erica Winkler

      It’s actually better for working parents. Parents is little kids can get their kids on the buses earlier than now and off to work. The older kids who don’t need to be walked to the bus can walk themselves. This is actually better for working parents.

  5. Aren’t kids (like adults) always going to be different? Some will be good early people, some will function better later in the day.

    Science is by no means determinate on this issue. Waking time isn’t nearly as important as duration and quality.

    N=1 (Me) I spent most of High school going to sleep after 1 and getting up at 6. I did pretty well. I was not an average student. I would bet if you looked at other students at the top of their classes they aren’t getting much sleep and they’re doing a lot of homework.

    I think consideration of all the evidence might be a better idea before rushing in to fix something that might not be broken.

    • Science is in fact determinate on this issue. Teens secrete melatonin, the hormone that signals your body to sleep, between approximately 11 pm and 8am. Although you can take supplemental melatonin to cue the brain to sleep earlier, you cannot do anything about the fact that at 7:30 am, the teen body is still telling the brain it should be asleep.
      If in fact you are one of the very small minority of people who need only 5-6 hours of sleep, congratulations. But that anomaly doesn’t counteract the actual research that has been done on this topic.

      • The recommendations are determinate — the science is not.
        Average numbers about Melatonin cycling do not define when individuals should wake and sleep.

        It is comforting to know that the AAP and the AMA recommend later start times based on the evidence from studies about student safety and mental health not just on the measurements of melatonin.

        But, even the most exhaustive and commonly cited study recognizes the challenges of performing this type of research and drawing definitive results even though it is quite definitive in its recommendation. Limitations included the use of almost exclusively self-reported data which is highly prone to bias and it didn’t divide the students according to their performance (do lower performing students improve more? do higher performing students improve at all? Is there a regression to the mean?)

        https://www.spps.org/cms/lib/MN01910242/Centricity/Domain/7352/final_version_3-11-14_start_time_report.pdf

        One of the most interesting conclusions regards an objective measure of injuries from sports … more sleep correlated with fewer injuries.

        However, no matter what the research says or doesn’t say everyone agrees that, “…schools’ parent engagement network [is] one of the strongest catalysts towards initiating and supporting the start time delay.” So keep fighting for what you believe in.

        • “There is virtually unanimous agreement in the research community that later start times in adolescent education would produce a positive change in adolescent learning, health and safety. Leading researchers in sleep medicine and sleep neuroscience have frequently called for this change in education start times to improve learning and reduce health risks. Few, if any, educational interventions are so strongly supported by research evidence from so many different disciplines and experts in the field.” – Education Commission of the States, available here: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/12/19/11219.pdf

      • Ellen Wentworth

        Well stated!

  6. Dan, I think it’s really unfortunate that you chose to focus on Greenwich’s survey responses. Those numbers and reactions reflect the challenges of change in general, and were arrived at by surveying students and parents a scant few months into the shift. Greenwich did not plan well for some aspects of the change- that doesn’t mean the change isn’t necessary or beneficial in the long run. The need for the change is clear, backed by mountains of evidence and supported by ALL national health and mental health organizations as well as the nations largest teachers union. There are ways to manage the change better- communities across the country are doing it and reaping the benefits, including lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness, lower rates of visits to the school nurse, and generally lower stress levels and more resilient kids. Greenwich’s superintendent has come up with a creative plan to ease some of the difficulties because she understands the science behind the need for a late school start. The bottom line is that a school start time earlier than 8:30 an has been shown repeatedly to be harmful to our kids health, physically, emotionally and yes, intellectually. Teens sleep needs are different than adults, both in timing and in length, although sleep is underrated in our society in general. Our doctors and mental health professionals are seeing the results of that all the time. One of our RTM members, Christine Meiers Schatz, has put together an excellent website collating this research. http://sleepforsuccesswestport.com/
    Please educate yourself on the reasons why this is not about “better sleep habits,” kids staying up late in digital media, permissive parenting, or “training for the real world.” This is science, people- and if we want our kids to be able to be high achieving in all their pursuits, extracurricular and otherwise, we can start by aligning the school schedule with their documented biological sleep needs.

  7. Elisa Mulhern

    Teens school and sleep is a complex relationsip. Later sleep and wake patterns among adolescents are biologically determined. Teens become night owls because their biological clock shifts forward in adolescence. Instead of feeling drowsy in the evening, teens actually beome more alert because melatonin, which causes sleepiness, is secreted later. In the morning, when people of other ages are awake and ready for the day, teenagers still have elevated melatonin levels. A teen who gets up at 6:30am for school is fighing against a biological force of sleepiness and is not physically able to fall asleep early enough at night because of the melatonin levels to get the recommended 8 hrs of sleep per night. The American Academy of Pediatics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine all recommend a 8:30am school start time. A new study in SLEEP, just published by Oxford University Press, indicates that delaying school start times results in students getting more sleep, and feeling better, even within societies where trading sleep for academic success is common.

  8. Stephanie Gordon

    Wilton has implemented this change and it seems to be very successful. They have many of the younger kids starting school earlier than the high school. Much easier to get the younger kids to bed early and wake up early.

  9. Hmmm. Westport is a top school in CT and the nation. The kids seem to thrive…don’t mess with a good thing.

    • Our kids are highly stressed, so much so that our high school guidance department has a program called the Resilience Project in an attempt to help our kids find the emotional and mental resources to handle all the stress that they’re under. Getting more sleep and healthy sleep would help.

    • If we’re talking academic rankings (which I think are somewhat problematic, but for what they’re worth), the top 30 and top 10 public high schools in the United States begin first period at an average of 8:13 a.m. and 8:10 a.m., respectively. SHS is #176 and begins at 7:30 a.m. Those rankings are from Niche.com, but if you use U.S. News and World Report instead, the top 10 high schools in the U.S. begin first period at an average of 8:36 a.m. The top 10 private schools in the United States and in Connecticut begin class at 8:13 a.m. and 8:17 a.m., respectively.

      Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world, and there high school begins between 9:00 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.

      • Staples starts its day at 7:30? Has it been that way for some time? I would have guessed that our starting time was after 8–maybe 8:15 or so in the 1960s/early 1970s—but it’s possible my memory is off about that.

        What I do have a very clear memory of: my first year at Staples in the fall of 1968, my A period “class” was a study hall! I remember some of us being exhausted and even trying to nap during that time—but napping was deemed unacceptable. And I vaguely remember at least a couple of us inquiring about whether we could skip study hall and just show up for our B Period class—but that was not allowed either.

        • It’s been 7:30 for probably 25 or so years. I recall a 7:40 start time when I went there, but I could be wrong. And shortly after 1968, the school went to an open campus concept. You could come in right before your first class, leave after your last — and, for a while, leave during any free period too.

          • Peter Gambaccini

            It was 7:50 when I was there. I used to see kids who lived past Weston Center whose buses always arrived before I did. Of course, Staples doesn’t have Westonites anymore but a start before 8:00 would mean kids from Saugatuck Shores would have to get up awfully early.

    • Agree 100 percent

  10. Since we’re talking science, a Harvard study found that earlier school schedules made little difference. In fact:

    “A far more effective solution to teenage sleep deprivation, the study’s authors suggest, would be to turn down the lights and limit screen time in the evenings. ”

    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teen-sleep-later-school-start-times_us_58da86a5e4b0928a6b781a02

    Again it goes back to sleep hygeine.

    • I encourage you to read the study, not just characterizations of it in the media. The study concerned students in the U.K., where the average secondary school start time is already between 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Under those circumstances, other factors have the opportunity to have a greater impact on sleep duration than school start time. The same is not true in the United States, and that’s why the AMA, CDC, APA, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, etc. have penned position statements that secondary school should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Harvard has a lot of resources on this issue, and one of the most preeminent sleep researchers in the country, who is featured in numerous articles including this one: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/for-better-performance-athletes-need-sleep/361042/

      You can watch a presentation he gave regarding school start times here: http://vzaar.com/videos/10225333

  11. Elisa Mulhern

    Biological rhythms change in adolescence that make it difficult to go to sleep and get up early. Asking a teen to get up for school with a start time earlier than 8:30am leads to a significnt amount of sleep deprivation. Relaxed attitudes to bedtimes, 24/7 access to social media, and light exposure from electrical devices compound the problem. From the article referenced by Mafk Lassoff: …”But the researchers noted that start times in the U.K. are generally later than in the U.S., where many schools begin as early as 7 a.m. In American high schools, the study’s authors concluded, there may be some benefit to modestly delaying school start times in addition to educating teens about the effects of artificial light and excessive evening screen time”.

  12. Michelle Ludel

    this only seems to focus on greenwich results what about wilton?

  13. The law of unintended consequences has not been and will never be repealed. “Solving” one ostensible “problem” will come at the cost of creating one or more other problems. I suppose the question is, which set of problems would people rather have? And the answer will no doubt be, some will want one and some will want another, and those who want none are unrealistic.

    As has been pointed out in this thread, each kid is different. Some thrive on little sleep and some need a lot. That’s always been true, and will not change here.

    The thing I predict with complete confidence is that the overall stress levels in Westport’s kids will not be reduced. This is a stressful society, made so by the way we have chosen to live and the things on which we place emphasis. Shifting the time during a 24 hour day in which we complete our 27 hours of daily tasks isn’t going to reduce stress overall, though it may shift it around among individuals.

  14. Michael Elliot

    My children are out of college and paying taxes (thank you very much!). So this conversation does not affect our family that much. I graduated from Staples in 1972. I don’t remember the pressure to perform, get into college, and advance into adulthood being any less pressurized than described above. We all grew up. My unsolicited advice to the parents of today and in total agreement with several comments above, is to quarantine all devices, smart phones, iPads, IPods and anything else that glows in the dark at 11:00 p.m. Melatonin or not, sleep patterns are destroyed by all the nightly pings that echo off the walls and ceiling every time a new and very important text message shows up. This or course won’t go over well, however this information age we live in has changed everything and some by-products not for the better.

    • Mike, one thing I suppose I remember differently about our era: I just don’t recall the level of pressure about colleges, thinking about future careers, etc being all that intense back then. For example, when my friends got summer jobs or part-time jobs after school, I don’t remember anyone thinking about getting some kind of position or internship that might be helpful to a possible career path. (The one exception might have been Dan, who was writing for the Westport News when we were in high school.).

      And I don’t remember kids in our day thinking that far ahead in high school about what college they might attend—at least that was the case in my circle of friends and peers.

      I do agree wholeheartedly about limiting access to all devices—and I have heard that when the Staples soccer team upperclassmen have gone on preseason camping/bonding trips to places such as the Adirondacks with apparently no smartphone access whatsoever, the kids have talked about how relaxing it was not having to respond to a gazillion texts every day.

    • Another view where I agree with 100 percent

  15. Karen Willett

    Is there an author attached to this circulating letter or is it anonymous? It is sometimes important to understand what a particular adult might have to lose from a later dismissal, before judging how much weight to give their predictions of doom for the children. I agree that end time and the impact to extra-curriculars should be carefully planned, like in many top school districts around the country that have changed successfully. Greenwich’s implementation seemed to be mismanaged and there are lessons to be learned.

    The letter writer says, “Will Westport make a similar change, cutting back the academic focus for our students in the name of more sleep?” Whoa! That’s a scary sentence! It is also a statement that suggests that the writer of this letter still holds the outdated, disproven idea that sleep is a luxury that can be swapped for other pursuits in the same, inconsequential way that one might swap an hour of piano practice for an hour of tennis lessons. How do you convince these people that teens need more sleep, if the opinion of every medical organization in the country (and every doctor in Westport, for that matter) hasn’t convinced them? Until one accepts that a certain amount of sleep is a basic necessity for growing teens and that they can’t get enough with a 7:30 school start time, (the “just go to bed earlier” people are another type of uninformed) it is easy to say that no academic class or extra-curricular pursuit is worth sacrificing for sleep. The “I will sleep when I’m dead”, “early start toughens them up for the real world” people are uninformed, but unfortunately, they are often the loudest. Again, I agree that any solution should include a careful examination of dismissal time, length of school day and use of time during the school day.

  16. Arline Gertzoff

    Back in the early sixties we started later,periods were shorter and we got out at 2:15pm Considering our number of Merit Scholars and college placement it did not matter .Getting out later missing classes for sports etc does not help.Those who stay up all hours will not change.

  17. Spent a lot of the day reading about this. There is definitely a great deal of literature that supports moving start times for high school students later.

    This support is reflected in the positions of the AAP, AMA, amongst others.

    I’d still like to see more information about whether it effects all students equally or if it helps underachievers improve.

    However, I do think the evidence is already even more compelling than the evidence for the long term effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and its relationship to football so, since I’m already on board the “End High School and College Football”-train I’ll get on the “Start High School after 8:30”-train, too.

  18. Wheatleigh Dunham

    I’m a parent that has been involved in the school start time change for Greenwich Public Schools. With respect to the data that is cited in this opinion piece, the author of the letter missed a crucial disclaimer in the report by the experts employed by Greenwich: “It is hard to draw conclusions on the overall student perception about the effect of the start time change on non-academic areas including health related items.” This is because the survey findings were contradictory, taken at different time periods – students at the end of May are going to be happier than students in October or January – and the surveys themselves were so flawed that the experts recommended implementing another survey because “a new survey would likely be more valid.”

    Also missing is the fact that the GPAs of athletes improved and both athletic teams and other extracurricular activities had a record-shattering year.

  19. Bart Shuldman

    Is the change in Staples start time being driven by parents? Helicopter parents saying their child needs an extra half hour of sleep?

    Hopefully some of you came from my generation. We walked to school no matter the weather as most could not afford a car. We had to be there by 7:30 am (high school) and we were granted something called ‘lock out’. This allowed us to take every class, one after another without a break so we could end by 12:30 and go to work to help our family. It also give us whatever spending money was left.

    We ended work and then ate and studied as long as needed. We did it everyday, not knowing anything different. We did it, graduated, and WE MADE IT.

    An early start for high school is part of life and will be part of the college and work experience.

    And let’s not forget the early start is also needed for high school sports and any change could ImpaCT younger players who play in town league organizations and need fields. PAL lacrosse gets fields after high school practice ends, and starting later will effect how much field time is left before darkness.

    BOE wait to see what happens when other towns try to change high school start times. Let them show us all the challenges and faults. Good time to follow and not lead.

    Please let our children grow up. Somehow I would guess most of us got up early for high school and found a way to do just fine. That is why we can all afford to live in Westport.

    • Sarah Manning

      It might seem like high school has started at 7:30 a.m. or earlier forever, but that isn’t the case. A hundred years ago, most schools started around 9:00 a.m. The same is true with respect to Staples High School. During the recession in the 1970s, many schools shifted high school and middle school start times earlier so they could have tiered bus schedules. Back then, the importance of sleep and the adolescent sleep cycle shift weren’t understood. Because there seemed to be no downside to earlier start times, saving money by using the fewest possible busses in three cycles was appealing.

      Now that we know better and leading health organizations have recommended that school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., it makes no sense to leave start times as they are. When the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we have babies sleep on their backs without crib bumpers, should we ignore the science because our parents did otherwise and we survived? When the American Medical Association recommends that we not expose our children to cigarette smoke, should we ignore the data because we don’t think it hurt us much? When the CDC tells us we shouldn’t allow more than a specific amount of lead in our schools, should we ignore a school covered in chipping lead paint because we don’t believe we were impacted? As one school superintendent explained, “the science and the evidence is so clear, that if I did nothing at all and just continued on with the same start times, I was hurting kids.” Now that we know better, we need to do better in Westport too.

      The most baffling argument is that we shouldn’t change school start times because teens will have to wake up early in the “real world”. Biology causes adolescents’ sleep cycle to shift later, just like biology causes toddlers to need 1 or 2 naps each day. Making teenagers attend school so early to “prepare” for the real world is like asking toddlers to skip their naps to prepare for second grade. By the time teens are in their early twenties and in the “real world,” their sleep cycle will have shifted back. We shouldn’t compromise adolescents’ health and potential by making them wake up so early now just because they might have to, or choose to, wake up early years later.

      • I’m curious.

        For those of you adamant about changing school times due to the science: Are you also enforcing a device and screen ban after a certain time? Because, science. Right?

        Or are you hoping– despite the detriments to extracurricular activities, athletics, work out side the home, socialization etc– that the shift in school time is a good alternative (and one that is inforced institutionally, instead of within your home…)

        I don’t have kids… But I do find this curious.

        https://www.smrv-journal.com/article/S1087-0792(14)00081-1/abstract

      • Bart Shuldman

        Sarah. I guess your children don’t play sports. I guess you don’t care that hundreds and hundreds of children in Westport will be hurt by your desire to hover over your children.

        Start earlier, finish studying earlier, go to sleep earlier. End later, finish studying later go to sleep later. But at the end they all get the same amount of sleep.

    • Karen Willett

      No, it isn’t driven by parents. It is driven by doctors, who issued recommendations, just like they have done for car seats, lead paint, asbestos in schools, and countless other child health topics. The easiest way to get up to speed on the facts is to read the AAP paper on school start times.

  20. Karyn Schwartz

    I can’t believe this is even a debate. School should start later. Sports will adjust – make the best decision for kids mental and physical health and their ability to learn. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/upshot/the-economic-case-for-letting-teenagers-sleep-a-little-later.html

    • If high school start times are pushed later, some of the youth sports teams and leagues in Westport will not exist. Unlike many other fairfield county towns, Westport has a very limited number of fields and almost no lighted fields. Youth teams use fields after high schoool practices and games are finished. In the fall when it gets dark early, youth teams will have no field space to play or practice. Some of life’s most important lessons are learned outside of the classroom on sports fields or through extracurricular activities. I’d hate to see Westport lose these valuable activities for our youth.

    • Erica Winkler

      I totally agree- and can’t understand why this is a debate. Kids with more sleep make better decisions, less likely to get into accidents and learn more! This should be the priority!

    • Bart Shuldman

      Karyn-please explain how Town sports will adapt?

  21. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    “Cutting back the academic focus for our students in the name of more sleep?” Getting plenty of sleep while in school was never a problem for me. Leave well enough alone.

    • Sarah Manning

      “Cutting back the academic focus” is a very misleading phrase. Research in sleep neuroscience has shown later school start time to improve academic, health, and sport performance outcomes.

  22. Erica Holmberger

    Mr. Buchroeder, you might not have had a problem with sleep because high school started much later at the time. SHS started at 9:00 a.m. as late as the 1950s. A post from this blog demonstrates that, in 1958, homeroom began at 8:30 a.m. and first period began at 8:44 a.m. https://06880danwoog.com/2010/06/06/those-were-the-days/

    In any event, this is not the movement of helicopter parents. It is a movement led by health and educational experts. All of Westport’s pediatricians have signed a letter endorsing the AAP, AMA, and CDC’s policy statements as “grounded in broad medical and scientific consensus” and stating that changing middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later is a “necessary public health measure.” (see http://sleepforsuccesswestport.com/files/2017/08/Westport-Pediatrician-Letter-July-2017.pdf)

    Greenwich’s flex period next year could be more accurately characterized as cutting back on academics in favor of sports and other extracurriculars.

    And with respect to sports, there is a profound information gap here:

    1) Experts have already reviewed what’s happened in the many districts nationwide that have moved high school start times later and concluded that the concerns here didn’t materialize: https://www.sbm.org/UserFiles/file/late-school-start-statement-FINAL.pdf

    2) Later school start times would benefit our student athletes tremendously, as Christine wrote about at length with citations on the Sleep for Success Westport website: http://sleepforsuccesswestport.com/benefits-of-more-sleep/#five This is why collegiate and professional sports teams employ sleep consultants. Likewise, the International Olympic Committee has noted that “[i]nternational trends indicate a prevalence of insufficient sleep amount adolescents, often prompted by early school-start times,” and has called on all youth and other sport governing bodies to embrace measures, including changed schooling schedules, to support adequate sleep in youth athletes.

    3) Researchers have found that whether an adolescent gets enough sleep is the strongest single predictor of whether he or she will get injured playing sports – it has more of an influence than hours of practice, number of sports played, strength training regimens, gender, or coaching styles. Athletes who sleep on average less than 8 hours per night experience 68% more sports injuries than students who sleep for 8 or more hours. This is especially significant given that a single concussion can change the trajectory of a student-athlete’s life.

    But more importantly, the focus should be on the profound health and safety issues at stake here. Please take the time to read Christine’s website and some of the many position statements regarding school start times.

  23. Eon L. bergmann

    As a late weigh in on this issue, I will just say that two of the leaders in this effort, Christine Meiers Schatz and Amy Kaplan, are two people I really respect, particularly for the fairness and analysis whereby they have sought to have a later start time at Staples.. I believe it is clear that the present start time at Staples High School is earlier than desirable for many, if not most students. The adjustments that will have to be made to accommodate a later start time can be worked out. The BoE and the School Administration should make the change. Listen to Christine and Amy.

    • Bart Shuldman

      Don. Are you advocating the end of town league sports? Are you advocating the end of youth girls field hockey? Youth soccer? Youth boys and girls lacrosse?

      • Your line of questions makes no sense. These youth programs exist in Greenwich, Wilton, Newtown, Scarsdale, Bronxville, Chappaqua, and Rye. And all over the U.S., where high school starts at an average of 8:00 AM. (SHS starts at 7:30 AM)

        This is my first time writing on a blog. I’m joining in because my wife’s parenting/character and those who share her views have been questioned here. She’s the better writer but here it goes.

        It’s unfortunate when one side of a debate relies on fear-mongering and criticizing the parenting of people they don’t know. We should set a better example for our children and not do that ourselves.

        With respect to blue light and screen use: you could ban all screens and electricity, and all the experts would still recommend that high schools start later. The sleep cycle shift for teens takes place in aboriginal cultures with no electronics and also for “teen” monkeys, mice, and other mammals who probably aren’t on Snapchat or doing homework on their laptops.

        And no, I didn’t get enough sleep either. It’s not relevant. It’s no reason to ignore the experts who all recommend the same thing. Especially because that doesn’t happen very often.

        With respect to helicopter parenting: we have 4 very young children. None of them will be at SHS for at least a decade, and right now being a “helicopter” means keeping them from climbing bookcases, etc. But that doesn’t mean my wife doesn’t understand our town or its sports programs. She was a NCAA Division I All-Conference Athlete, and team captain at Harvard. She’s now a volunteer water polo coach at SHS. There’s a massive amount of information geared towards athletes on her website – a website she wrote and created for a non-profit that she founded. She’s also an RTM member. She does all this because she loves this town, your kids, and youth athletics.

        And she’s not anonymous. Reach out if you have questions.

        • Scott — are you aware of the lack of sports fields in Westport and especially the lack of lighted sports fields? Many of our neighboring towns have multiple fields with lights so that their youth sports teams can practice or play without the threat of darkness. For many years I was very involved in Westport youth sports, specifically girls lacrosse and field hockey. Do you know that there is only one field in the entire town of Westport lined for girls lacrosse and field hockey. That one field is shared by all Staples teams (Varsity, JV and Freshman), as well as all girls youth teams. Sure, the town allocates an unlined grass field for the youth girls to use occasionally, but girls are unable to play games on those fields or adequately practice without girls lines. In the fall when it gets dark by 5 pm, youth sports practices follow the Staples practices and the youth teams rarely have field space available when those teams have home games. In fact, often the JV field hockey games are cut short because of darkness. So….when will the youth girls be able to practice or play????? If start times for Staples gets pushed back 1 hour, youth practices will get pushed back an hour as well which will make it impossible for the girls field hockey and lacrosse teams to survive.

          • Ms. Levy Shuldman –

            I didn’t realize that the challenges that our town face are so unique, rigid, and unsolvable.

            We should clearly discount all studies and medical knowledge that show indisputable learning, health, and safety benefits to our youth – including our young athletes – in favor of keeping the status quo. We should also definitely not being open to finding creative alternative solutions that accomplish the greater good.

            In complete earnestness, though, many towns that have made this change have fewer fields than we do. And less lighting. This latter problem can be solved. There are other fields in other locations in Westport that can be lit. The technology is advanced enough now that these lights have zero bled and could even be rented for certain times of the year if need be. In other words this could be an impetus to get the girls’ lacrosse and field hockey teams more appropriate accommodations than they have now.

            • I don’t appreciate your condescending tone and attempt to dismiss my concerns. I no longer have a horse in this race as my youngest child will graduate from Staples this year. But, in addition to my concerns regarding changing start times at the expense of exercise for our youth athletes, I believe that changing start times will negatively impact the “end time” for our high school students. My daughter would often stay up until 12-1am doing school work and would wake at 6:00. If end times move later, she would have ended up doing homework until 1-2 am, waking at 7:00. Perhaps the answer isn’t changing start times and maybe assigning less homework. As you mentioned, your children are small and you haven’t experienced life at Staples yet – good luck! I hope everyone concerned can work towards a solution that works for all students.

              P.S. – I hope you are successful getting lights on other fields in Westport. It would be amazing for both our high school and youth athletes. It took 10 years to get lights on the stadium field at Staples and there are tons of restrictions as to when they may be used.

          • Karen Willett

            Susan, your concerns seem completely valid with regard to the frustrations of adequate space for youth sports. But do you believe that the only solution is for every teen in town to start school at a time that guarantees sleep deprivation? There has to be another way to resolve the problems you describe. The later start time debate might be the forum you need to get these issues addressed.

            • Bart Shuldman

              What am I missing with the sleep problem.

              If a student who does not play sports gets 5 hours of homework and an hour for dinner and starts when they get home from school at 3, they are done by 9. They take an hour to watch anything or play on their computer for an hour and get to bed by 10. They get almost 8 hours of sleep if they wake up at 6 and start their Staples day.

              If the school started one hour later-the same happens, 5 hours of homework, an hour for dinner and an hour to play. Go to bed at 11 and wake up at 7. Same 8 hours of sleep.

              If this whole argument is sleep, then it appears either start times gives a student almost 8 hours of sleep.

              Good luck. These changes could and will effect town sports which will not be good for our children or our town. Glad we got they Staples before this had any chance of being implemented.

              • Karen Willett

                I would just suggest that you read the AAP policy if you really want to understand what you are missing. Briefly, even if they do try to go to bed earlier, their sleep cycle shift means they can’t fall asleep before 11 or so. With a 7:30 start, their window of available sleep time is thus limited to about 7 hours.

        • Bart Shuldman

          Scott-other towns that you mention have lighted fields that can be used to practice into the evening hours. Westport has 1-the football field. That is why Westport has such a big problem.

          Before any change tonstarting time is made the people voting for the change better do their homework regarding town youth sports. You could be creating a major issue and in some cases ending their ability to continue.

  24. Maybe the “problem to solve” should be stated in terms of the students’ needs such as: “How can I get the most out of my education in and outside of the classrooms at Staples HS and also have a healthy, well-rounded life?”
    Maybe students can be very actively involved in research, generating ideas to solve the problem, selecting some ideas to further analyze and evaluate, and then propose solutions to the HS administration. The needs of Westport students vary greatly so the solutions should not favor one group. Part of the analysis and evaluation of solutions would also be to understand the impact on middle and elementary school students caused by changes in the HS schedule.

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