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Westwood School start time forum announced

Like teens across the country, students at Westwood High School start their learning day at 7:25 a.m. Researchers, educators and politicians have all weighed in on the school start time debate. National data shows that the majority of adolescents today simply aren’t getting enough sleep. The question of when the school bell should ring to start the day is now being considered in Westwood.

“The science and research behind moving start times back is very compelling,” said Tony Mullin, chair of the Westwood School Committee’s subcommittee on school start times. “It points to both the physical and mental wellbeing of children. Research indicates that there is a shift in adolescents’ circadian rhythm during these years which means their sleep patterns change and they naturally go to sleep later.”

Last spring the subcommittee sent out surveys on start times to parents, students, and staff. 80 percent of parents supported or felt neutral about a later start time at the high school. 61 percent of high school students supported or felt neutral about a later start time. 77 percent of middle school students agreed, were not sure, or did not have an opinion about a start time after 8:00 a.m. 85 percent of staff supported or felt neutral about a later start time.

“For many years, the argument to keep start times early centered around after school sports,” said Mullin. “But that argument really doesn’t hold true anymore, given the number of high schools in the TVL who have moved to later start times. WHS is currently the earliest start time in our athletic league.”

Sophomore Ava Ng supports starting school later in the morning. “I am for pushing back the school start time because students will be able to get more sleep and be able to function better in the morning.”

Other students oppose the change.

“I do not want activities to end later in the day and then be doing homework late at night. I also find that I have trouble sleeping that late in the morning and staying up late at night, so I feel like the schedule would really mess that up,” said sophomore Grace Barnett.

Survey results show the top reason why students are against a later start time is the impact on after-school jobs. 21 percent of high school students worry they would have to cut work hours if start times are pushed back. The top reason students support a later start time is the added time in the morning. 23 percent of high schoolers said that they would spend the extra time before school sleeping while 16 percent of students said they would spend the extra time completing school work.

The subcommittee is inviting members of the public to join them at a public forum on school start times on Monday, October 3, at 7:00 p.m., at the Thurston Middle School Cafeteria, located at 850 High Street.

“We do have several options related to start times.” Mullin said. “This is why we’re inviting members of the public to share their feedback.”

This feedback will be discussed at the October 13 school committee meeting, with a vote expected at the November 9 meeting. Any changes to the schedule would be implemented for the 2023-2024 school year. More information about the start time initiative is available at http://www.westwood.k12.ma.us/district/school-committee/start-times.cfm

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