Published in the March 25, 2016 edition
MELROSE — The city’s older public school students will be going to class a little later when the 2017-18 academic year rolls around.
This week the School Committee approved a request from Supt. of Schools Cyndy Taymore and here colleagues from across the Middlesex League to begin high school and middle school classes at 8:15 a.m. and end them at 2:41 in the afternoon.
Currently the high school runs from 7:45 a.m. to 2:11 p.m. The Veterans Memorial Middle School starts five minutes later and ends five minutes later.
In a memo to the School Committee, Taymore wrote that she recently informed members that the Middlesex League superintendents were meeting to discuss common concerns, including a later start time for secondary schools.
“As a group, we have come to an agreement that the research is indisputable and that it is in the best interest of students to move to later start times for middle and high schools.
“The Middlesex League Superintendents believe that working in concert on this change will reduce one of the most challenges, the difficulty in scheduling after school activities, primarily athletics. By collaborating as a league, we hope that we can successfully address this obstacle.
“Melrose is well ahead of many of the other league communities in that we spent six months last year exploring the benefits and challenges of such a change. In the attached letter from the Middlesex League Superintendents, we do not specify a particular common time, but a range of time to which all districts would move. For Melrose, I am recommending a move to 8:15 a.m. beginning with the 2017- 18 school year. That will give us sufficient time to work with our stakeholders to address their individual concerns and to give them sufficient time to plan.
“With any change, we cannot please everyone. However, the goal here is to do what is in the best interest of children, based in scientific research. Moving to 8:15 will not guarantee all children are on time for school; will not prevent individual students from staying up too late; and will not guarantee everyone is on task all day. However, we will improve the probability of better outcomes for students academically, physically, and social-emotionally.
“In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued on August 7, 2015, authors noted that, ‘adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight; not engage in daily physical activity; suffer from depressive symptoms; engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs; and perform poorly in school. However, insufficient sleep is common among high school students, with less than one third of U.S. high school students sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights.’
“Our responsibility as a school district is to optimize our programs and opportunities in order to provide our students with the education and resources they need to be successful as learners and as members of our community. I respectfully ask the Melrose School Committee to consider this change and make the decision that is in the best interest of our students,” Taymore concludes.
The Middlesex League superintendents wrote, ““Our intention is to commit to a deadline and to the necessary consensus building required to make a change in long-standing practice. Doing what is right for adolescents will mean changing adult schedules and behaviors. Ultimately, the choice to change will distill down to what communities value most.
To this end, our League goals are as follows:
• High School start times between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. for all Middlesex League High Schools by the start of the 2018-2019 school year. (Current start times range from 7:30 a.m.-8:00 a.m.)
• After-school competitions will be scheduled so that students do not routinely miss academic time
“The expression of our intentions and our timetable should provide ample opportunity to address all stakeholder concerns and to reallocate existing funding or commit to the new funding that may be needed to implement later start times. Moreover, by setting a timeline for Fall 2018, we believe districts, families, and organizations that oversee athletic competitions, academic competitions and other student activities will have sufficient time to prepare for a change that will benefit all our students.
“We hope this joint statement is the first of many as we work together across our respective communities to implement practices that are in the best interest of children,” the league superintendents write.