As a member of the Scarborough community, I appreciate the time the Scarborough school board has devoted to determining optimal school start times.
As a pediatrician, I agree with the science supporting later start times for adolescents. However, making high school start times almost 90 minutes later, while making primary start times one hour earlier, does not serve the best interests of all students.
If adjusting start times for adolescents existed in a vacuum, I would support proposed start time changes. But the nature of our busing system means that this will affect other students and their families. We used data to push this time change, but we are using anecdote to minimize the effects on younger students.
Research and data state that elementary-school-age children need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night. Research and data describe effects of sleep deprivation on primary-school-age children, including increased aggressiveness, increased attention deficit hyperactivity disorder-type behaviors and poor concentration.
To make a 7:15 a.m. bus and still get recommended sleep, my daughter will need to be in bed at 6:30 p.m. As working parents, we often don’t get home until 6 p.m., forcing a choice between family time or adequate sleep for my child. I believe that the second option – a slightly later start time for high school students, with minimal change for primary students – is our best compromise.
We’ve been told by school board Chair Kelly Murphy that “we (the school board) have no control over bedtimes.” While this is true, the school board is penalizing younger students to meet the needs of older ones with such a drastic switch of school times. The board is not taking the needs of working families with young children into account.
I urge you to consider this vulnerable population as you serve the needs of all children.
Jennifer Jubulis, M.D., FAAP
Correction: This letter was updated at 12:12 p.m. on April 17 to correct a misquotation.