September 25 2017

School Committee to Hold Special Meetings on Later BHS Start Time

By: Rich Hosford


Parents interested in learning more about the Burlington School Committee and Burlington School Department’s research into later start times for Burlington High School can attend one of four informational meetings that will also provide an opportunity for participants to share their thoughts and ask questions.


“Please know that the district is approaching this decision carefully and in the best interest of the greatest number of students,” Principal Mark Sullivan said in a blog. “We understand that any change is difficult. Before making this decision, the School Committee would like to have community conversations on this topic.”


These conversations are scheduled for Tuesday, October 3rd and Thursday, October 5th at 8:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. The October 3rd meetings will be in the Francis Wyman Auditorium and the October 5th meetings will be in the High School Auditorium.


Burlington schools have been discussing the possibility of changing the start time for high school students to a later time for the past two years. The argument for later start times is based on research that says adolescents and teens function better when they both get more sleep and when that sleep is matched to their biological clocks which on average for children that age is later to bed and later to wake up.


One of the experts whose research the department is leaning on is Dr. Judith Owens, Director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, who spoke at BHS to outline why she thinks teens need to sleep in later. You can watch our BNEWS story on the talk here and the full speech here.


Sullivan said a lot of thought and research has gone into potentially making this change.


“We have been part of a larger public health conversation focusing on high school start times,” Sullivan wrote. “The Middlesex League High Schools - Arlington, Belmont, Burlington, Lexington, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Watertown, Wilmington, Winchester, and Woburn - all committed to having local conversations about the benefits of starting high school at 8:30 or later.”


Of course, changing the schedule for the high school will impact the other schools, especially with the current plan to keep the same number of buses and routes. The chart above shows how changing the high school start time to 8:30 a.m. could impact pick-up and drop-off times for Marshall Simonds Middle School and the elementary schools. With the exception of the middle schools all the other schools would have slightly earlier bus pick-ups and start times.


The School Committee is expected to vote on whether to change the high school start times during its meeting on October 24.


The school department has a website dedicated to this issue which you can find here.


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