The Mashpee School Committee voted 4-1 in favor of changing school daily start and end times at the town's three public schools beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
The decision, in which committee member Christopher C. Santos cast the lone vote against the change, came during its meeting at Quashnet Elementary School Wednesday evening, May 9.
A brief public comment period preceded the vote, and opinions on the issue varied from ardent support of to more cautious opposition to later start times.
The current school times are 7:30 AM to 2 PM at Mashpee Middle/High School (grades 7 to 12); 8:15 AM to 2:45 PM at Quashnet (grades 3 to 6); and 8:20 AM to 2:50 PM at Kenneth C. Coombs School (pre-kindergarten to grade 2).
The approved change will make the school day 8:30 AM to 3 PM at the middle/high school and 9:05 AM to 3:35 PM at Quashnet and Coombs.
The approved change is intended to address adolescent sleep needs while balancing the sleep needs of younger students. The topic has been a contentious issue among Mashpee parents.
Following two years of discussion, surveying and public comment, the committee has most recently considered four options put forward by schools Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer with recommendations from a now-disbanded school start time committee.
In the addition to the option the committee approved, the other three options were to make no change in the start and conclusion of student school days; to change the school day to 8:30 AM to 3 PM at the middle/high school and to 7:30 AM to 2 PM at Quashnet and Coombs; and to choose the the earlier options with slight alterations.
There was unanimous support among the committee members for changing the middle/high school start and end times to one hour later.
Concerns about the potential impacts of changes to the elementary school start and end times, however, became continual sticking points for the committee.
While the committee members generally expressed support of the research surrounding the benefits of increased sleep for adolescents, Mr. Santos said he was "torn" about how a change at the middle/high school would affect the families with students at the elementary schools.
"I can't support something that would put even a very small number of people in a bad financial situation," he said, noting potential problems for single parents and working students among others.
Committee member Nicole D. Bartlett noted that the district now has close to 16 months to help families prepare for the new start and end times.
"We're going to help as many families as we can to adjust to this change," she said.