Later school start times dis­cussed

Study group ‘strongly rec­om­mended’ that the Owen J. Roberts School Dis­trict change its sched­ul­ing

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

SOUTH COVEN­TRY >> A study group from the Chester County In­ter­me­di­ate Unit stu­dent fo­rum Mon­day night “strongly rec­om­mended” that the Owen J. Roberts School Dis­trict change its sched­ul­ing to join a grow­ing move­ment of later high school start times.

Four stu­dents rep­re­sent­ing the fo­rum’s task force which stud­ied start times in high schools con­cluded a pre­sen­ta­tion at the school board com­mit­tee-of-the-whole meet­ing with a rec­om­men­da­tion to the board to con­sider chang­ing the high school start time, cur­rently 7:30 a.m., to a later time.

The stu­dents cited the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics rec­om­men­da­tion that high schools start no ear­lier than 8:30 a.m. They also noted a sur­vey by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol has shown high schools on av­er­age start at 7:59 a.m.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­cited the start times in their schools in­clud­ing Phoenixville, 7:20 a.m.; Coatesville Area, 7:30; West Chester, 7:35, and Unionville-Chadds Ford, which this year cre­ated a later start time of 7:45.

Mon­day night’s pre­sen­ta­tion came on the heels of OJR Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael Chris­tian’s an­nounce­ment last month that the dis­trict is form­ing a task force to study the is­sue. Staff, stu­dents and par­ents have been in­vited to join a

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­cited the start times in their schools in­clud­ing Phoenixville, 7:20 a.m.; Coatesville Area, 7:30; West Chester, 7:35, and Unionville Chadds Ford, which this year cre­ated a later start time of 7:45.

dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing the stu­dent fo­rum find­ings and lo­cal par­ent ap­peals.

Ac­cord­ing to the stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tion, the stu­dent fo­rum con­ducted a sur­vey in Chester County that showed 80 per­cent of those stu­dents who replied be­lieve a later start time would ben­e­fit them. Ben­e­fits span the cat­e­gories of aca­demic, phys­i­cal, emo­tional and safety, the stu­dents said. They in­clude bet­ter grades by be­ing alert in class, emo­tional well-be­ing, fewer ill­nesses and in­juries, and fewer car crashes and fewer in­ci­dents of drug or al­co­hol abuse.

Peo­ple of­ten say, “Why don’t they just go to bed ear­lier?” pointed out stu­dent fo­rum rep­re­sen­ta­tive Matt LoPolito of Phoenixville Area High School. But that isn’t the is­sue, he said. Af­ter pu­berty, ado­les­cents’ cir­ca­dian rhythms change, and they are typ­i­cally not able to get to sleep be­fore mid­night. Their bi­o­log­i­cal clocks con­flict with the de­mands of high school sched­ules, he said.

The stu­dents ac­knowl­edged the ob­sta­cles to chang­ing school start times, in­clud­ing bus­ing, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and the im­pact on fam­i­lies jug­gling sched­ules of younger sib­lings. Their pre­sen­ta­tion in­cluded al­ter­na­tives

“We’ve been work­ing on in­creas­ing on­line learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for sev­eral years. The gen­e­sis of this was not re­lated to the sleep study pre­sen­ta­tion you just heard. This was to pre­pare our stu­dents for an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal world and on­line learn­ing.” — OJR Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael Chris­tian

and sug­ges­tions from other school dis­tricts which have suc­cess­fully al­tered sched­ules. The stu­dents noted that ele­men­tary-aged chil­dren are more of­ten in sync with early school start times than their high­school aged sib­lings.

One of the sug­ges­tions to sub­sti­tute first-pe­riod classes with on­line learn­ing is al­ready be­ing used at OJR, al­though Chris­tian pointed out to the board it’s in re­sponse to dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, not sleep de­pri­va­tion.

A pre­sen­ta­tion on cur­ricu­lum ini­tia­tives later in the Mon­day meet­ing high­lighted the ad­di­tion of more hy­brid and on­line cour­ses in the high school. High school Prin­ci­pal Richard Mar­chini il­lus­trated how a stu­dent’s sched­ule could in­clude a num­ber of hy­brid cour­ses in such a way that the stu­dent would not have to come to cam­pus be­fore the start of sec­ond pe­riod.

Hy­brid cour­ses, he ex­plained, re­quire some class meet­ing time in ad­di­tion to the on­line work, but that time is usu­ally sched­uled in sec­ond pe­riod or later.

“We’ve been work­ing on in­creas­ing on­line learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for sev­eral years,” Chris­tian told the board. “The gen­e­sis of this was not re­lated to the sleep study pre­sen­ta­tion you just heard. This was to pre­pare our stu­dents for an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal world and on­line learn­ing.”

How­ever, the fact that stu­dents en­gag­ing in on­line learn­ing can achieve a later start time was a point ob­served by board mem­bers in Mar­chini’s pre­sen­ta­tion. In re­sponse to a ques­tion, it was noted that school trans­porta­tion is not avail­able for sec­ond pe­riod starts.

Mar­chini said one of the most pop­u­lar on­line cour­ses cur­rently be­ing of­fered is phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. He said stu­dents can de­velop per­sonal fit­ness pro­grams mon­i­tored with Fit­bit fit­ness track­ers, get­ting credit for PE with­out par­tic­i­pat­ing in class on the school cam­pus.

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