The Scarborough Board of Education will decide, on Thursday, whether to change school start times, in an effort to combat teen sleep deprivation. An abundance of science supports this, and so do I. We need to find a solution that works for our district, ideally one that has been tested in similar districts.

The board is considering two options: a modest delay by about 20 minutes; and a 75-minute delay that requires flipping the K-5 and 6-12 schedules, which comes at a considerable cost to our youngest students and their families. Many parents are advocating the modest change as a compromise because it benefits adolescents without hurting elementary students. We’ve presented them with scientific and anecdotal reasons to favor the modest change, yet the board will likely vote 6-1 in favor of the flip.

The board celebrates Biddeford, Saco, Dayton, Old Orchard Beach, and Westbrook for delaying start times to 8:30 a.m. All of these districts are graded B or C by the Maine Department of Education, while Scarborough is graded A. Scarborough is academically quite different from these districts. We have a different set of challenges and priorities, and I’m not confident their solution will address our needs.

Scarborough should emulate comparable A-grade districts, like Yarmouth, Greely, and York. Each of these districts has implemented a modest change to 8AM. None of our fellow A-grade districts have gone to the 9 a.m. extreme that the board has suggested. This is why I support the compromise of 8 a.m. It’s a step in the right direction for adolescents, and it doesn’t hurt elementary students and their families.

Matt Sither

Scarborough