The Newton School Committee will make a decision about late high school times at Monday’s meetings. Groups such as the Newton South High School Council and NewtonHighSchools.com have promoted awareness and advocacy for later high school start times. The research is unambiguous. Later high school start times are associated with better mental health, better physical health, improved academic performance, lower drug use, and lower incidence of traffic accidents. Detractors point out that not all stakeholder groups agree on the same plan, and extra busing costs and labor negotiation costs might put a financial burden on the Newton Public Schools.
Should the School Committee move to a later time or not?
I have emailed a daughter and mom in one district that just switched, Bellevue, Washington. Claire, the daughter, is a high school senior and a National Merit Semi-Finalist. She wants to be a physician. She told me, “As a student in a school that has recently switched to the late start, I can say that I’m absolutely getting more sleep, am less tired in morning classes as well as throughout my day, and find it easier to concentrate on my work. I have been keeping track of my sleep patterns throughout this change, and I get on average 35 more minutes of sleep on weekdays than I used to when school started at 7:30.”
Maura told me that all the parents that she speaks to are very happy with the change, even parents who were skeptical.
Maura told me, “From my perspective as a parent, I have seen the change from a 7:30 am to 8:30 am start in the Bellevue School District to be beneficial in every way. My daughter in particular had a very rigorous program for sophomore and junior years. She slowly became increasingly exhausted and lethargic over time. The later start has allowed her to begin to heal and recover during her senior year. It makes mornings easier on the whole family.Tutorial has been moved to before school and that has not caused major problems. We strongly advocate for the change to a later start.”