Letter: Commitment to health
To the Editor:
I applaud the BoE for committing to healthy start times in 2019-20. Aligning start times with student biology is sound public policy, providing the foundation for learning and growth. When children are well-rested and primed to learn, programming is more effective and ROI improves.
Currently, RHS students are unable to take full advantage of curriculum in the early periods because, due to adolescent physiology, the sleep hormone melatonin remains active in their bodies and the cortisol awakening response is just beginning. In fact, this is one reason RHS rotates the first four periods of the school day. Additionally, half of our elementary schools end too late. Children practically go straight from the bus to the dinner table, leaving little time to play with friends and to just be kids.
Studies show that when adolescents start school at 8:30 or later, they not only sleep longer, but also sleep at the right times. This allows the natural adolescent circadian rhythm to prevail, which in turn allows the body to heal properly both physically and emotionally. Sleep at the right time also improves memory consolidation. Healthy bell times reduce rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, risk-taking, substance abuse, and car accidents while improving test scores and academic achievement.
Improvements in curriculum do not approximate their potential impact when students are forced to learn in conflict with their biology. The BoE must choose a new superintendent who shares the board's commitment to student health, not kick the can yet again. The right candidate for Ridgefield will understand the importance of healthy start times and value student health, demonstrating the strong leadership and analytical skills necessary to do the right thing for all of Ridgefield school-aged children. I encourage the BoE to stay the course and implement biologically appropriate bell times in 2019-20.