To the Editor:

A big thank you to the BOE Steering Committee for planning healthy school start times implementation for 2018/19. The creation of the Steering Committee punctuates the necessity of change and demonstrates a focus on “how” to implement healthy start times, not “if.” The BOE and Dr. Baldwin are displaying a deep commitment to student health and achievement.

This effort aligns Ridgefield with local and national successes in protecting student health. The National PTA recently passed a formal resolution to support healthy start times. Wilton upgraded to healthy start times 14 years ago. Newtown and Greenwich will implement healthy start times in 2017-18 (Newtown implemented in under a year).   

A California state bill for healthy start times is on its way to the Assembly. Hundreds of districts across the country have upgraded to healthy start times, more are in the process, and now many states are drafting bills to require healthy start times.

Why are so many districts and states focused on this? Because aligning start times with adolescent biology improves student health and achievement without requiring new teaching methods, testing, or large budget expenditures. When school starts at 8:30 a.m., students benefit from improved academic and athletic performance. The incidence of depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety decrease significantly. Students are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior (drunk driving, substance use/abuse, texting while driving). There are fewer automobile accidents and athletic injuries.

Children at our “late” elementary schools will also benefit. Their biology makes them ready to learn earlier and they deserve to get home in time to play outside.  And no child, big or small, should get on or off a bus in the dark.

I am grateful to the entire Steering Committee for their time, commitment, and creativity. This improvement benefits the entire community!

Pam Hartnett, MPH, RD