Letter: Board of Education puts cost over student health

To the Editor:

I was shocked when Board of Education member Doug Silver said at the last Board of Education meeting: “It’s going to be very difficult to make that choice” when referring to the cost of implementing later start times for high school students. “Financially, this might still be at the bottom.” How is it possible that the health of our children is put on the bottom? Previously Mr. Silver had said, “Is the cost of [starting school later] so significant that we’re not willing to follow medical advice? And if so, why? We’re going to have to explain that to a lot of people. We’re not following what is the science, and to me is hard. We have to make a heck of an argument in the opposite direction. The cost must be so unbelievably substantial that we can’t do it.” I don’t understand this change. It is inconceivable that the Board of Education would put an insignificant cost over the health and productivity of our students.

Based on an internal preliminary study, without adequately evaluating cost saving alternatives, the Board of Education found the additional cost per student is less than 44 cents per student per day. You can’t even buy a bag of chips at the cafeteria for that amount. If the Board of Education had followed the lead of successful communities by hiring logistics experts, the cost would likely be significantly lower. Some districts even realized a cost savings.

Is 44 cents per student per day too much to pay to achieve significant, measurable reductions in teen stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, drug use, sexual and other risky behaviors? The obvious answer is ‘no,’ because prevention is always more cost-effective than treatment. Forty-four cents (and probably much less) per student per day is an exceedingly cost-effective preventive.

Meredith Harris