I was disappointed that the Maine Sunday Telegram’s recent article on later school start times gave no description of the negative impact that these start times have on younger students.

The article mentioned briefly that in order to allow older students to start later, many school districts have pushed younger students to a later start time, too. While there is less research on this topic for younger children, the research that does exist confirms what parents and educators of early elementary children know already: Younger children’s brains do not mirror the adolescent brain.

Younger children wake up earlier than adolescents, are alert earlier in the morning and fade by mid-afternoon. This means that the younger student will wake up early and have to wait, in many cases for close to two hours, for their school day to begin. Then their energy level and attention will fade after lunch, even though they are in school for several more hours.

Ask a kindergarten teacher what 2:30 p.m. in her classroom feels like. Or sit with first-graders who are trying to learn math at 3 p.m.. The later start times at the upper grades will have a huge benefit for those students. However, we are sacrificing the needs of our younger students in the process.

I am hopeful that superintendents across the state recognize this, and I am eager for school districts to continue the search to find the optimal start time for all learners.

Julie Saxe

Cumberland