Sag Harbor School District To Present Six Possible Late Start Time Options Next Week

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Sag Harbor Superintendent of Schools Katy Graves is scheduled to present six options to the Board of Education next week for the implementation of later start times in the district starting in 2015-16.

Four of the six options include starting classes at Pierson Middle/High School at 8 a.m. at the earliest, more than half an hour later than the current start time of 7:25 a.m. Two of those four options propose starting almost an entire hour later, at 8:20 a.m., while the remaining two of the six options propose starting at either 7:35 a.m. or 7:45 a.m.

At the elementary level, the start times would not shift as much, as that school already begins classes at 8:35 a.m. One option, though, involves starting at 7:35 a.m., one hour earlier. Another proposes a 9 a.m. start time.

In a phone interview this week, Ms. Graves said that there are many pros and cons to each plan, and that all determinations will essentially be weighed based on transportation, as well as how starting and ending the school day later would affect athletics at the middle/high school level. Many of Sag Harbor’s sports teams are shared with neighboring districts, so those practice start times have to be taken into consideration.

“Each of these shifts has to be examined,” Ms. Graves said, adding that parents and school administrators have been providing great feedback at several of the late start time meetings the district held throughout October and November, when the issue was discussed. “They’ve taken a very keen interest in the health and well-being of our children. They’ve taken a very active role in listening and participating.”

Starting school at a later time could come at a cost for the district, though, which is why officials hope to present plans before budget season rolls around, Ms. Graves said. Some of the late start time options involve combining bus runs, meaning all students in the district would be on the buses at the same time. That would involve the purchase of possibly five new buses, as well as hiring additional drivers—a projected cost of up to $817,220 that would have to be included in the 2015-16 budget.

Ms. Graves said the district is ultimately looking to start school at a later time because research has begun to show that teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep per night to ensure high academic performance and overall good health. A study published in August by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also pointed out that a community in Virginia, whose school district implemented a later start time, saw a 29-percent decrease in teen car crashes, as many students were no longer driving to school with too little sleep.

“From a medical perspective … whenever kids go through puberty, there’s a shift in the circadian [internal] clock,” Dr. Shalini Paruthi, director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, said by phone Wednesday morning. “We understand that a lot is going on in a busy teenager’s life. But teenagers who are rested also perform better. It’s really important for kids to get enough sleep, especially in this adolescent age group.”

After Ms. Graves presents the six options to the School Board at next week’s meeting on Tueday, December 9, the district will follow up with a public workshop where community members can further weigh in on each option and its challenges. There will also be a districtwide survey sent out after the workshop.

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