October 19 2016

School Department Discusses Later High School Start Times, Creates Website for Parent and Student Input

By: Rich Hosford

A number of experts and researchers agree, teens need their sleep and getting up early for school can be detrimental to their mental health and stress levels. 


That is why the Burlington School Department and School Committee is working with other schools in the Middlesex District to research and discuss later start times for high school students. The discussion started last spring and has continued into the fall and now they are looking for input from students and parents. 


Superintendent Eric Conti and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin announced a new website, bpsschools.wordpress.com that has information on later school start times and a section for input from the public. Not all parts of the site are up and running as of the publication of this piece, but Larkin said surveys for both parents and students will be up soon. 


“This is not just going to impact the high school,” Larkin said. “We want feedback from elementary parents as well. If an adjustment is made for older students it will probably affect younger students as well.”


Things to consider, he added, include child care arrangements as often high school students will babysit for younger siblings. 


Conti said the school districts are also considering things like sports schedules and other inter-school competitions. The school department also wants to consider the impact of later start times on things like homework, students enrolled in clubs such as the drama productions and marching band and busing. 


Conti also stressed that this effort is about overall student well being, not just later start times. He said if students stay up later and still lack sleep it misses the point. 


“Moving the start time to 8:30 is not magic,” he said. “If kids start going to bed later we miss the benefit. I hope this is a larger discussion about student wellness. 


Finally, Conti said that just because they are discussing this it doesn’t mean the start time will necessarily change. He said right now they are looking for feedback from parents, students, teachers and other staff members, everyone who may be impacted. 


“We want to make sure we’re asking the right questions,” he said. “Each constituent will have its own concerns. What’s most important to me is that the instruction we have is the highest quality no matter the time.” 


Any changes won’t happen overnight, either. According to a joint statement by the members of Middlesex League of Superintendents, which Conti signed onto, the group is looking to make possible changes in the fall of 2018. Read the full statement here

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