A Martin High School mom who wants the Arlington school district to push back the start of the school day to 8 a.m. or later said Saturday that she was encouraged with how a meeting went last week with district leaders.But Debbie Moore, whose daughter is a freshman, also said she was disappointed to learn that the fall of 2014 is the soonest that any change would be implemented.Moore, who presented Trustees Jamie Sullins and Bowie Hogg and interim Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos with an online petition Thursday that she had posted on change.org in September, says a growing body of research indicates that starting classes early can be unhealthy for teens. Cheryl Till, whose son is also a freshman at Martin, has joined Moore in a campaign to get the 7:35 a.m. first bell moved to a later time."Research indicates that starting the high school day later is a public health issue that affects every teen in the public school system," Moore wrote in an e-mail Saturday to the three district officials. "Respecting the biology of teens is not a 'component' of evaluating the instructional model, but rather the very foundation from which every other element of the model grows from."Moore and Till have compiled a list of government, healthcare and university studies suggesting that teens' brains release the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin later than people of other ages. That, coupled with research indicating that teens need about nine hours of sleep, means that early classes may run counter to the goal of creating a strong learning environment, the moms say.District officials said they welcomed the input and would include start times in a review of the district's instructional model called for under the new "Achieve Today. Excel Tomorrow" three-year strategic plan.A change to the high school start time would likely affect start times for elementaries and junior highs as well. Because of tight state funding, district spokeswoman Amy Casas said Monday, the school district uses staggered start times for the three levels to maximize efficiency of its school buses.A change would also affect child care arrangements for many families that rely on their older children to pick up their younger siblings after school and could affect after-school jobs and extracurricular activities, Casas said."Our students come first, but we cannot ignore the other factors, including school funding," she said. "As this issue affects thousands of students and families, the district will need additional time to hear from the community during this review process. It's still very early in this process to say if and when a change to school start times will take place."Moore and Till say they plan to meet with school PTAs to continue their campaign. They liken the issue to the creation of the free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program that ensures students aren't being asked to learn on an empty stomach."It seems counterintuitive that the district is spending so much time, money and effort in developing a long-range strategic plan to increase academic performance, attendance and graduation rates when juggling the bus schedule to start high schools later for fall 2013 would immediately improve the sleep needs of teens and therefore result in progress towards these goals," Moore told Sullins, Hogg and Cavazos in her e-mail.Online: bit.ly/aisdsleepPatrick M. Walker,817-983-8080Twitter: @patrickmwalker1
Weighing in on Facebook
A sampling of the comments on the Arlington Citizen-Journal page and in the group Arlington Texas Talk:
Cindy Brown: Are you kidding me? As usual, blame the school system when it should start at home. The school is not responsible whether teenagers get enough sleep or not. The parent(s) is the first influence on the teenager and home is where rules need to be changed. What is next? When they graduate and go out to find a job are they to find jobs that start after 12 p.m.?
Mark Dellenbaugh: High Schools in Leander ISD (Central Texas) run from 8:45 to 3:45. That schedule was put in place after an extensive review of the scientific literature which is quite clear on the learning benefits of later start times for adolescents. Even parents who were initially skeptical found a reason to get behind the shift: less unsupervised time in the afternoon means fewer opportunities for teens to 'get in trouble!'
Diane Martin Scott: Not only was my grandson sleep deprived, I was sleep deprived. We woke up at 530 in order for him to catch the bus at 615 for the school start at 735. This was his junior year at Legacy in Mansfield. I bought him a car for his senior year.
Pat Lewis Barker: Just because school starts later, doesn't mean students won't be sleepy during the school day. It seems that parents today don't understand when bedtime should be for their children -- especially elementary age students. Oh, for about the last 6 years, kindergarten students don't have time to take naps anymore. You just won't believe what a kindergarten student is required to know before leaving for the 1st grade.