Letter: Start time focus groups — a chance to be heard

Healthy Start Time focus groups for teachers, administration, and HS students are scheduled to be completed before spring break. Parent focus groups will be held on April 17 and 18.

The cost of changing start times (if any) and the proposed start times are not known at this time because the consultants (EduLog) have not completed their study. Other communities have made the change for little or no cost with the help of sophisticated logistics software. It is the hope that EduLog will provide similarly creative, low-cost options.

Here’s what we do know:

  • A recent study (Nature, February 2017) found that early start times and sleeping in on the weekend correlate with a statistically significant reduction in prefrontal cortex mass. The prefrontal cortex carries out the executive functions of the brain, including planning and goal setting, decision making, impulse control, and guiding appropriate social behavior. It is believed that this “stunting” of the prefrontal cortex development is irreversible.
  • Healthy start times equate with more sleep for adolescents and more sleep equates with lower rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, athletic injuries, car accidents and obesity. Several studies have demonstrated improved test scores, grades, and athletic performance with healthy start times.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adolescents start school at 8:30 a.m. or later. Over 70 local pediatricians, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, nurses and other health care providers have signed a letter stating that healthy start times are critical for adolescent physical and mental health.

Wilton changed start times in 2003. Greenwich will change them next year. Districts across the country have changed start times. They all made the change because scientific evidence clearly demonstrates the mental, physical and emotional health benefits of later start times.

Pam Hartnett MPH, RD

Mimosa Circle, April 4