Speakout!

December 04, 2005

THE ISSUE: --The Anne Arundel County School Board has scheduled a forum for Dec. 14 on changing the times that the county's high school students begin and end their school day.

Some parents and educators have called for pushing back the 7:17 a.m. starting time, referring to research that teens need more sleep and are less alert in the early-morning hours. But starting high school later could affect middle and elementary schools. Some high school students and parents like the current schedule and don't want to change it.

Should county schools push back the starting time for high school students, or otherwise change hours?

Here is a sampling of responses:

Changing times would alter routine

I do not think the county should change the school hours. I have one child each in high school, middle school and elementary school. It takes me two hours to get them off to school in the morning. Yes, my high schooler leaves the house at 6:30, and yes, that is early, but somebody has to go early and it makes the most sense for it to be him. My son participates in sports and gets home late from practice and games. Would high schoolers have to move practice to the morning? When would they get their homework done on game days? There are students who have jobs and attend the community college. When would they be able to fit that in?

I think it is time for the high schoolers to grow up, anyway. I am sure that there are studies that will tell me that my high schooler needs more sleep; my response is: Go to bed earlier. If their starting time is moved to later in the morning, I'll bet there will be more tardiness because their parents head off to work and aren't home to push them out the door on time to catch the bus.

My middle schooler gets off the bus at 4 p.m. On the days that she has practice, she barely has enough time to change and get something to eat before it is time to leave. I do not want her walking home from the bus stop in the dark in the winter.

We lived in Charlotte, N.C., when [former Arundel Superintendent] Eric Smith was superintendent there and my two oldest children were in elementary school. When we were there, elementary school students started first. It is no fun dragging the young ones out of bed on a cold, dark morning, loading them into the car to take them to the bus stop because you still have a baby that you also have to wake because you can't leave him home alone. At least with the high schoolers starting early, you can just send them out the door.

Also, when my elementary school children got home at 2 p.m., there was too much time to keep them occupied. I was lucky enough not to have to work during that time, but for families with child care issues, that is a lot of time that you must find (and pay for) child care.

So, I think the school schedule should stay the way it is: high school, elementary school, middle school. I don't want one more dime spent on transportation. Any additional money should go to school improvements or curriculum enhancements.

Cathy Zablotny Arnold

Research proves teens need sleep

As a fervent morning person who bounds from bed energized by the first rays of pre-dawn light, I believe in the supremacy of early risers over night-lurking sloths such as my husband. But after reading the research on teen sleep, I'm not sure I'm right. It appears that, at least for some people, you really cannot manipulate the sleep cycle - and that for teens, you definitely can't shorten it without unhealthy results. Teens actually need more sleep, say the experts, than younger children.

Think about arising regularly at a time when you really, really cannot stand the idea of being up and about, say 2:30 a.m. For me, 11 p.m. works. Every sinew in my body has long since succumbed to sleep. (Now and again I'm aware that my wide-awake husband is still cleaning the kitchen, paying bills, taking out the trash.)

Could it be that asking teens to be at the bus stop in the dark at 6:15 a.m. is abusive?

Barbara Sause Severna Park

Waiting for buses in dark is dangerous

It's about time the school board wakes up to reality, Having those children standing on the side of dark, unlit roads that early is an accident waiting to happen. Why does the obvious seem so difficult?

John Reusing Pasadena

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