“I think it’s time.” Those are words I shared with the Webster CSD Board of Education during its Nov. 2 meeting. I had just returned from a conference on mindfulness and neuroscience, and the topic of school start times came up once again in a forum filled with scientists, educators and, most importantly, individuals who really care about the overall health and wellness of young people.
As a district, we strive to educate the whole child in all that we do both inside and outside the classroom. There is an abundance of undeniable scientific evidence supporting the fact that our middle and high schools start too early for teens whose changing biological sleep patterns require them to sleep later in order to maximize their ability to learn. Medical studies also show that a lack of sleep for older students can negatively impact their physical and their mental health. That fact alone got my attention and the attention of so many of us in the district who care for your children.
The possibility of later start times for secondary students in our district is a critical one that deserves a mindful, in-depth study. The science is convincing regarding sleep research and the biological and neurochemical effects that adequate rest has on the physical and emotional states of our teens. That said, Webster CSD, along with other districts throughout our region, state and country, still grapple with the challenges of changing school start times. This will be a year-long process of exploration, study and problem-solving, and it involves all of us in the One Webster community.
During that Nov. 2 meeting, the board of education asked me to design a process and gather feedback that would explore this important issue. I invite any of you who are interested in learning more to attend an initial Webster CSD Start-Time Study Group meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Spry Middle School auditorium, second floor, 119 South Ave., Webster. We’ll hear from a University of Rochester researcher, local pediatrician and district administrators during that initial meeting so you can begin to learn more. If you would be interested in attending, please RSVP by emailing Larry_Wahl@webstercsd.org. Mr. Wahl is WCSD’s coordinator of strategic initiatives and will be leading the group’s work.
In all honesty, I have no idea what conclusions and solutions will come from this study group’s formation; I can tell you this is not a short-term study. If the group determines that changes in our district are necessary and possible, those changes wouldn’t take place until fall 2019 or 2020, however, it is important that we begin to research this critical issue. Again, I do think it’s time.