Nearly 50 people turned out Monday night to hear information regarding a possible shift in school start times in the Greencastle-Antrim School District.
"A few years ago, the school district did look into this topic, however no changes were made," explained Dr. Kendra Trail, G-ASD superintendent.
The idea has come around again and determining whether the current schedule is the best approach is No. 1 on her list of four goals Trail presented to the school board in August.
Currently, high school students are dropped off around 7:20 a.m. and classes begin at 7:30 a.m. Elementary and primary students start their day at 8:15 a.m.
Trail said a committee made up of students, teachers, staff and community members meets regularly to study the idea.
"My desire is to have a recommendation for the board by March 2019," Trail said Monday, during a public presentation on sleep and teenagers.
Gail Karafin, a licensed school psychologist in the Doylestown area and founder of Start School Later Pennsylvania, a chapter of a national nonprofit focused on educating and advocating for legislation "to ensure evidence-based school hours at the national, state and local level," gave the nearly two-hour presentation.
She said studies from the National Sleep Foundation show children 11 to 18 need 9 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night, but she believes most aren't getting that.
"Research has revealed that adolescents have a unique internal clock that acts as a form of delayed sleep phase disorder," Karafin said. "It's difficult for teens to fall asleep much before 11 p.m. and most teens need to wake up at 6 a.m. to arrive to school on time."
She said chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a number of cognitive, educational, emotional, physical, athletic, risk-taking, substance-abuse and safety problems.
"We are harming our children by cutting their sleep short," Karafin said. "Lots of things go on in sleep that are healthy for us."
Karafin said she believes there are multiple benefits of a delayed start time for teens beyond general health, including safety, both of students who drive to school and those who have to wait for the bus in the dark. "I don't want teenagers or children of any age to be standing waiting for the bus in the dark," Karafin said. "I think we need to look at this so no one has to stand in the dark."
"It's impossible unless you start at 10 a.m.," replied school board member Eric Holtzman.
Some parents who attended the meeting were critics of the idea as well.
"We need to understand this is one side of the coin," said Carter Davidson, a local physician with experience in sleep disorders. "It is the sleep that makes a difference. We can make many changes to sleep without changing the start time."
Other parents raised concerns about how a later start time would affect after-school activities, as well as finding day care. "You can't help one group by hindering another," one parent said.
One mother wondered why she hadn't heard about this idea before.
"We covered this many times in board meetings," Holtzman said. "We are lucky to get two people to show up."
He said the board will weigh any recommendation from the superintendent on the issue.
"We weigh these decisions heavily," Holtzman said. "This is being done with a lot of research."
Trail said more information about upcoming information meetings, as well as the committee in general can be found on the district website at:
under the Parents tab and Adolescent Sleep and School Start Time tab.
In addition, Trail said the committee is asking for questions or comments about the plan to be sent to:
She said a parent survey is expected to be sent out in December.
"This decision is not about change for the sake of change," Trail said. "We are doing our due diligence. Work is still being done on this."