Board to study al­ter­ing school start times

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Nancy March For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

SOUTH COVEN­TRY >> An­swer­ing the con­cerns of some par­ents and a Ch­ester County-wide study, Owen J. Roberts School District is form­ing a com­mit­tee to consider early school start times at the mid­dle and high schools.

Sev­eral par­ents had ad­dressed the board in May to raise the is­sue of sleep de­pri­va­tion in teens caused by early school start times. Cur­rently, high school and mid­dle school classes be­gin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m.

The speak­ers in May, in­clud­ing three par­ents, a doc­tor and one teen, sug­gested chang­ing to a start time no ear­lier than 8:30 a.m., based on a 2014 rec­om­men­da­tion by the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael L. Christian told the school board Mon­day night that a com­mit­tee is be­ing formed to study the is­sue. He said the stu­dents who com­pleted a study last year for the Ch­ester County In­ter­me­di­ate Unit will make a pre­sen­ta­tion at the next board com­mit­tee-of-the-whole meet­ing Oct. 10.

Christian said af­ter the meet­ing that an email went out to par­ents invit­ing their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the com­mit­tee. Board mem­bers, school staff and mem­bers of stu­dent gov­ern­ment will also par­tic­i­pate.

OJR be­comes the third district in Ch­ester County to consider al­ter­ing start times. Unionville-Chadds Ford and Phoenix­ille Area dis­tricts are look­ing at the lo­gis­tics of chang­ing start times for the next school year.

Two of the par­ents who had urged study of the is­sue be­fore the board in May re­turned Mon­day to thank them for ini­ti­at­ing the com­mit­tee. Kathy DiMarino, com­pli­ment­ing the board for agree­ing to study the is­sue, asked that a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional be in­volved in the group.

Sev­eral par­ents had ad­dressed the board in May to raise the is­sue of sleep de­pri­va­tion in teens caused by early school start times.

Par­ent Ch­eryl Hert­zog also thanked the board for tak­ing this step that she said will en­sure stu­dents “not only sur­vive, but thrive” in high school.

Christian said one op­tion the district may consider is of­fer­ing more on­line cour­ses in the high school for stu­dents to

sched­ule in lieu of a first pe­riod class.

Ear­lier this year, the county in­ter­me­di­ate unit heard from the stu­dent fo­rum com­posed of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the 12 dis­tricts in Ch­ester County. Stu­dents spent a year study­ing the ef­fects of school start times and made a pre­sen­ta­tion ad­vo­cat­ing for the later start.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­search, fewer than one in five mid­dle and high schools

in the U.S. be­gan the school day at the rec­om­mended 8:30 a.m. start time or later dur­ing the 2011-2012 school year. Too-early start times can keep stu­dents from get­ting the sleep they need for health, safety and aca­demic suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics.

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