School Start Time Committee delivers a presentation | News

WILMINGTON — The school’s start time committee presented several potential options for change from its research to the school committee last Wednesday night. Presenters included Deputy Superintendent Paul Ruggiero, Transportation Coordinator Lisa Faretra, Shawsheen Deputy Principal Kevin Welch and Health and Physical Education Liaison Laura Stinson.

Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand began by saying this was an area of ​​focus in the strategic plan. He gave the context by saying that according to research, young teens need more sleep in the morning, so school is best started later in the day. He also mentioned that a number of other Middlesex League districts have changed their start times accordingly.

The presentation went into more detail about teen sleep schedules. They explained that teenagers have changing sleep patterns. They found that teenagers have a harder time falling asleep earlier and need to sleep later in the morning.

According to research, college students get more sustained sleep if they can sleep in later.

“Experts in the field have said that teens who start school at 8 a.m. or later have health and academic benefits,” the presenters said.

They even argued that getting more sleep in the morning makes a difference, even if it keeps students awake later.

However, considering changing class start times also meant considering the effects. Factors they considered included pressure on families, financial considerations, athletics and after-school availability for high school students.

They mentioned that only three Middlesex League districts had not changed their start times for older students: Wakefield, Wilmington and Woburn.

Transportation Coordinator Lisa Faretra went on to say that their ideal scenario would be where no student has to be at the bus stop in the morning before 7 a.m. Currently, some students are picked up as early as 6:40 a.m. The target start time for older students would be between 7:50 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

They would also like to keep the school day at the same number of hours. With these conditions, the committee first examined 11 change scenarios before narrowing them down to five.

The first scenario would have the least impact, with all back-to-school times simply pushed back by 20 minutes. The second scenario would consider starting all middle schools at once, followed by middle school and high school, then kindergarten and elementary school. This would not require additional buses, but it would impact CARES and expand basic routes.

The third scenario would let elementary schools start first, followed by middle school, then middle school, then kindergarten and high school last. This would affect both extracurricular sports and CARES, as some of their staff come from high school students. The fourth scenario would have middle school start first, then Shawsheen, West Intermediate, Boutwell, Woburn Street, North Intermediate, Wildwood, and high school last. The same impacts would be made on extracurricular sports and CARES.

The final storyline would have middle school start first, then high school, then kindergarten, and finally all elementary schools. This would have no CARES impact but would involve the addition of six additional buses, as all primary school students in the city would have to travel to school at the same time.

The next steps for the committee were to raise awareness and get feedback. They would do community outreach during the February school holidays. After that, they will report their findings to the community and hope to get a decision from the school committee by April 13.

Brand commented on the complexity of transportation impacts. He shared that they mainly exclude scenarios that require more buses mainly because of the cost – $70,000 per bus per year.

“It could be implemented as early as next year if there is a scenario we want to move forward with,” he continued.

One of the concerns expressed by school committee member MJ Byrnes was that students were arriving home too late in the afternoon. However, the committee assured them that they were looking to increase the efficiency of the routes and to ensure that pupils were taken care of as soon as they left school.

David Ragsdale asked how they would communicate with staff about the proposed changes. The committee told them that they would send out a survey of the faculty and the community.

Ragsdale also reiterated how complicated all of these storylines and changes are.

“We think the compromises we are making right now are worse than other choices. We are used to what we have now, so any change is going to change some adjustments,” he said.

Byrnes also asked about bus ridership, to which Faretra said 90-95% of students who sign up take the bus.

Jay Samaha said he appreciated the potential options while advocating no significant effects on CARES.

“Hopefully we can support that and the community will support it as well,” he said.

After soliciting feedback, the school start time committee would return to the school committee on March 9.

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