August 1 2017

School Department Says Later Start Times Would Not Impact Cost of Busing

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington School Committee once again took up the issue of later high school start times at its latest meeting, this time focusing on the issue of busing.

The reason the School Department is considering changing the school start time is because a lot of data show that traditional school start times for high schools have adverse health effects on teenagers. They also add to stress levels of students.

Earlier this year the department invited Dr. Judith Owens, Director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, to discuss teenage sleep cycles and the benefit of later school start times. You can see a story on her talk here or watch the full program here.

School leaders said at previous meetings there would be a lot of issues to work out before changing the school start time, one of them being busing. Last week Superintendent Eric Conti spoke about conversations he had with A&F Bus Company who told him that the change could be made and the same level of busing (3 tiers) could be kept in place if the other schools also had some modifications to their start times.

Conti said the high school could change from its current start time to run from 8:35 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., a 65-minute shift. In order to keep the number of bus runs the same this would require the middle school to start five minutes earlier and the elementary schools to start 15 minutes earlier. This plan would require no additional costs to the town.

The superintendent acknowledged that the ideal situation would be to also have the middle school start later but that would require adding a fourth tier of bus runs, increasing the cost to the town. This plan, he said, would allow the largest group of students to have a later start time while giving the school department a chance to evaluate the impact. In the future changes could be made at the middle school level.

“We should certainly evaluate the impact before we look at taking on the cost of a 4th tier,” he said. “We can have a conversation about whether the impact has been positive or not and if it has been positive and people want us to pursue having the middle school start at a later time we could certainly take a couple of years to prepare the budgeting to do that.”

Conti said there will be further discussions on the change to later start times. He said that this month there will be open houses with School Committee members at the different schools and that the department will put forward an official proposal for discussion.

The department has also created a website on the plan where parents and other residents can submit feedback.

The School Department is aiming to have the later start times in effect for the fall of 2018.


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