Two southwest Arlington moms continue to push for a later start time for Arlington high school students, and one of them has been named to a school district committee that will examine the issue.Debbie Moore and Cheryl Till, both of whom have freshmen attending Martin High, say the school districts 7:35 a.m. first bell is harmful to teens because it prevents them from getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.In mid-October, Moore presented Trustees Jamie Sullins and Bowie Hogg and Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos with an online petition that she had posted on change.org in September. At the time, it had almost 200 signatures; the total had risen to 372 as of Monday."I have been placed on the district's instructional model committee, as part of the three-year strategic plan, along with 40 other teachers, principals, administrators and parents," Moore said Tuesday. "As part of the mission and objective of the committee, we will be examining school start times. So progress is being made."She also set up a page at blastroots.com that allows users to email state Reps. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, and Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, as well as state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, whose district covers Arlington.As of Monday, the page had 34 registered users, but Moore said it is no longer a priority because the deadline to file bills for the current session of the Legislature has passed."It did serve a purpose in that it raised awareness of this issue to several state legislators," she said.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 in October that they welcomed the input and would include start times in a review of the districts instructional model called for under its three-year strategic plan. But no change would be implemented before the 2014-15 school year, they said.A change in high school would likely affect start times for elementary and junior high schools as well, officials have said. The district has used staggered start times for the three levels to maximize school bus efficiency and keep transportation costs down, they said.Moore also wants the district to provide bus services to Martin High students who live south of Interstate 20 near Kelly Elliott Road. The overpass has no sidewalks or shoulders to walk on, and the city recently installed no-pedestrian signs at each end.All it would take is for a car to swerve a little and a teen could be thrown off the bridge to I-20, she said.City officials told her after she asked about the signs that the city, in conjunction with the state, has realized that the bridge needs to be widened and a sidewalk provided. Police will not write tickets, but they wanted to ensure people know it is dangerous to walk across.That's great, but how are kids supposed to get to school? she said.The district does not provide free bus transportation to students who live within two miles of the school. But the state education code allows districts to apply for additional transportation funding for students who live within two miles if they would face hazardous traffic conditions while walking to school.A hazardous condition exists where no walkway is provided and children must walk along or cross a freeway or expressway, an underpass, an overpass or a bridge, an uncontrolled major traffic artery, an industrial or commercial area, or another comparable condition, the law says.District spokeswoman Leslie Johnston said Monday that paid bus service is available to students who live in Kelly Elliott area south of I-20. The option was not available at the start of the school year, she said, but a change in bus routes made it possible.When it became available, she said, the families who had requested it were notified.
Patrick Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1