The Easton School Committee decided Thursday night to appoint an exploratory committee to look into impacts of changing the start times for
"As a school committee we decided it was time to formally take some steps to determine if changing the start time at any of the levels, particularly at the secondary level, makes sense," School Committee Chair Jane Martin said.
The decision to form an exploratory committee comes after concerns that high-school aged children and adolescents may not getting enough sleep, which therefore affects their learning abilities.
Currently, (grades 9-12) and (grades 6-8) have the earliest start times in the district, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. respectively. and schools (grades 3-5) begin at 8:25 a.m. and Easton's three elementary schools (grades k-2) begin the latest, at 9 a.m.
"Anybody who has kids can see how they get up when they’re younger earlier in the day and by the time they're in middle school you’re pulling them out of the bed with their feet," school committee member Colleen Less said.
Less added that the sleep issue was not necessarily an issue of "going to bed" earlier for adolescents and teenagers.
"If it were a function of changing bedtimes, we all would have done it," she said. "Its not that they’re staying up too late. Literally, their body’s timing is such at this stage in their development that they find it difficult to go to bed"
The small group will research practical affects of changing start times, Martin said. Tasks would include researching affects on afterschool programs at the secondary level and contacting other districts who have made the change.
Committee members pointed to Sharon as a noteable nearby district that has undergone start-time changes. Last year,
Martin said the exploratory committee may say that a time change is not feasable for Easton.
"We’re not saying we’re doing it, we’re saying we’re starting an exploratory committee," she said. "The core group will contact other towns and see how it worked out for them. Also, our own bussing – how does that impact other programs in the late afternoon, or early evenings?"
School committee member Caroline O'Neill said that while there may be practical difficulties to changing times, there are a lot of "barriers" in children's learning if times were not changed. She listed off a number of side effects to lack of sleep including:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Impaired learning
- Impaired behavior regulation
- Increase risked taking
- Poor mood
- Appetite and metabolic changes
- Weight gain
- Increase stimulant use
"I think its about time we address this," O'Neill said.