School board votes not to change start times
School start times will stay the same in the Greencastle-Antrim School District.
The school board voted 6-3 Thursday evening against pushing start times back by about half an hour, capping more than a year of discussion, research and committee and community meetings.
The schedule will remain secondary drop off at 7:20 a.m. and dismissal at 2:23 p.m. and elementary drop off at 8:15 a.m. and dismissal at 3 p.m.
Recommending whether to change start times was Dr. Kendra Trail's No. 1 goal for 2018-19. The issue had been discussed a number of years ago, but nothing happened and the school board asked the superintendent to revisit it.
Research on the adolescent brain has shown that teens' circadian rhythms may prevent them from falling asleep earlier.
"Over the past several years, there has been mounting scientific evidence that chronic adolescent sleep loss has become a public health issue," according to information on the district website.
A committee of parents, students, teachers, administrators and board members was formed in the fall of 2018 to examine the pros and cons and make a recommendation in April. At that time, the panel was deadlocked 9-9 on making a change and delayed a recommendation pending the fall release of the Joint State Government Commission on "Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents: The Case for Delaying Secondary School Start Times."
After the commission report was issued, the committee favored later start times 14-4, Trail noted in her presentation Thursday night.
"We really feel we did our due diligence," Trail said, adding it was up to the school board to make the call.
Several people spoke before the vote, including parents and a teacher.
Issues included the study looking mainly at secondary students — half the district's student body — and not the elementary students; disruption to family schedules, including balancing getting children off to school with work hours; and cutting students' after-school time for extracurricular activities and jobs.
Dr. Carter Davidson, a father of five and who will join the board in December, said while research showed adolescents need more sleep, there were no studies indicating later start times improve academic performance.
Madison Kirkwood, a student school board representative, pointed out a survey of students that was part of the committee process showed 57 percent would like the start time to stay the same and 63 percent think school starts at the right time.
Brandon Hull, the other student school board representative, said he has had great mentors among teachers in the district and their opinion against the change should be trusted.
School board member Scott Hart thanked the student representatives for their effective constructive criticism and compared it to the anger and hatred that been spread on social meeting based on hearsay.
"We are all residents of the district, most of us have kids and we care," Hart said. Hart cast one of the votes against changing the start time and was joined by Shannon Blanchard, Lindsey Mowen, Paul Politis, Mike Still and Shannon Yates.
"Change is hard," said school board member Pat Fridgen. She said an extra half hour of sleep could help lower obesity rates and improve mental health and the board is "looking out for what's best for the kids."
Fridgen voted for the change, along with Tracy Baer and Eric Holtzman.
Additional information, including the joint commission and G-A committee reports, can be found on the school district website: