Falmouth parents weighed in about a possible change in school start times at a community forum administered by the School Start Time Task Force on Tuesday evening, October 18.
Their comments reflected opinions expressed in a written response section in surveys distributed in September to students, families and school staff.
“The community is split in the desire to change school start times,” Falmouth School Committee chairman Alan Jacobs said. “Regardless of what we do, we are going to make some people angry.”
The task force, which includes school committee members, administrators, teachers and parents, was formed last summer to explore the idea of changing middle and high school start times to later in the morning based on research showing that adolescents’ sleep cycle is geared to going to bed later.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that later start times allow students to get the recommended nightly sleep of 8.5 hours to 9.5 hours each night.
Falmouth High School starts at 7:22 AM; the Lawrence School begins at 8:15 AM.
The forum was a way to discuss the task force’s progress so far and to present the results of the surveys.
Highlights of these results showed that by grade 12 about 80 percent of students reported they were getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.
Mr. Jacobs said another topic that became clear from the survey is that there is a real concern about the amount of homework being given out. Parents and students said that homework combined with extracurricular activities is what keeps students up at night.
Parent Adam Thomas spoke about having two sons with extracurricular activities and abundant homework. A later start time would push these activities later into the evening, he said. He also had concerns about funding.
“This is going to cost us,” he said. “Tell us what we are going to lose if we move to this.”
Parent Tiffany A. Van Mooy, who is also on the task force, spoke about recent research that supports changing the sleep cycle for adolescents and need for sufficient sleep. She said with newer research, the community should take a look at the start time option.
“I am excited to see this process go forward; this is new and it should not be put to bed because of routines,” she said
The later elementary start time here, 9:05 AM, surprised Tracy A. Bouton when she moved to Falmouth from Georgia, where elementary school students started first in the morning, at 7:50.
“It’s a matter of getting used to something different,” she said.
Although no scenarios were discussed at the task force forum, a few parents expressed concerns about the possibility of younger students starting school earlier if the start time changes. This could result in long days for those in aftercare and put a strain on families, they said.
Pediatrician and parent Dr. Gregory W. Parkinson commented on sleep needs for younger children. He said it is the number hours of sleep they get, not when they get up in the morning. Younger children tend to get up earlier.
“They are raring to go at 7:30 AM, which is not the same for adolescents even though they were as younger kids,” Dr. Parkinson said.
Mr. Jacobs also presented the group’s projected timeline. The plan is to continue to educate the community and develop some start-time scenarios into February to be presented to the community, with the opportunity for public comment in March and a school committee vote scheduled for May 2017.
Any change would go into effect in fall 2018.
Those interested in joining the task force should send an e-mail to email@example.com.