Debates Arise About Later School Time

New Paltz residents have kept up the spark of a long-winded conversation spanning over many months regarding concern for the current required school-day start time.

After a district-wide online survey was conducted in January, New Paltz Board of Education members began exploring the pros and cons of the current school-day starting time. As it stands, the first bell rings at 7:55 a.m., prompting students to be seated by 8 a.m., the official start to the school day.

Upon receiving 951 responses at 37 percent participation, it became evident to the board that many community members were in favor of pushing back the first bell to 8:30 a.m. or later.

Months after the fact, the conversation is still on the table.

At a Board of Education meeting on Oct. 18, New Paltz Central School District parent Steven Greenfield recounted an instance two days prior that possibly could have been avoided if school started later in the day.

Greenfield, a volunteer New Paltz firefighter, was called to the New Paltz Middle school on Oct. 16 to handle a reported fire that extinguished itself. The middle school faced a day’s closure, most parents having received the call while on their way to drop their kids off at the school.

According to The New Paltz Times, Greenfield cited the 2014 research studies and advisories about adolescent sleep time from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Joint Centers for Disease Control, stating that aside from inconveniencing parents by throwing a wrench in their morning schedule, districts with later start times experience a 70 percent drop in car accidents and sports injuries, due to providing student with 8.5-9 hours of sleep on average.

District parent Stana Weisburd explained that the change in time would be beneficial for the students’ well-being, the science being clear. “I’m sure all of the things people are concerned about when it comes to a later start time can be figured out,” Weisburd said. “It’s been done elsewhere.”

Weisburd admitted that while her son is only in the second grade, she believes this change to be crucial.

“Because of teenagers circadian rhythms we know that they fall asleep later so they also need to wake up later,” she said. “Not enough sleep affects everything.”

In a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2006, adolescents were found to exhibit depressive behavior in the wake of sleep deprivation. In another poll conducted by NSF, 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complained about being tired during the school day, according to the parents, and 15 percent reported falling asleep at school during the year.

The Oracle intends on conducting an interview with NPCSD Superintendent Maria Rice, who was not present at the Oct. 18 meeting.