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BOE And Superintendent Wide Awake On Sleep Issues

Published: May 10, 2017

To the Editor:

It appears likely that as soon as this fall, our town’s teenagers will have a later school start time allowing them to get some more, much-needed sleep.

Major medical associations have recently recommended later school start times for middle schoolers and high schoolers, who they say have unique body rhythms and sleep needs due to their age.

Superintendent Joseph Erardi, Jr, and the Board of Education should be commended on their efforts to change Newtown’s school start times to reflect the latest science behind national sleep studies for adolescents. Sleep-deprived teenagers face struggles with physical and mental health, including increased cases of sports injuries, car accidents, and depression.

The likely proposal to change the town’s middle school and high school start times from 7:20 am to 8 am places Newtown at the forefront of a national and statewide trend to delay school start times for teens. Dr Erardi told parents at this week’s community forum that he is pleased Newtown is in front of the trend, setting an example in the state and addressing what Board Vice Chair Michelle Ku characterizes as a public health issue.

The recommended time change would give Reed Intermediate students an 8:55 am start time, but would not affect the elementary school start times. Length of school days is still in the process of being tweaked, but no Newtown public school students would be leaving for school or coming home from school in the dark anymore, which happens for a short period of time each school year. The recommended time change would also mean school and commuting traffic around the high school would be somewhat alleviated.

The school system would move from three rounds of busing to two rounds of busing each day, resulting in a nominal increase in the school budget — a small expense for such all-around positive changes.

Before appointed School Start Time Committee Members — who have been studying this town issue for months — deliver a recommendation to Board of Education on June 6, a start-time survey will be delivered to public school parents in town to solicit more overall input.

The Board of Education has been steadfastly focused on what’s best for students and what’s best for their learning regarding this matter, according to Board Chair Keith Alexander.

The school district has done an outstanding job of getting in front of an important issue to student performance and health. They thoroughly investigated the science behind the issue, took careful steps, and solicited varied input.

It’s everything the people of Newtown expect out of an exemplary Board of Education and school district. And they have delivered marvelously.

Rebecca Carnes
150A Hanover Road, Newtown         May 10, 2017

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