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Letter: School start times should serve the needs of learning

Letter to the Editor graphic
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Recently, the RPS board decided to re-examine school start times following a survey that showed overwhelming (97%) disapproval for the 2021-2022 start times, particularly amongst elementary educators. Interestingly, in a follow-up survey the favor of adjusting start-times dropped to around 50%.

The school board should attack one important question initially: why was there such a disconnect between the two surveys? It seems that secondary students participated in the latter survey, but not younger learners, which possibly led to over-sampling of opinions in this population.

While data on optimal learning times for young students is mixed, it is clear that older students can benefit from additional morning rest. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and AMA have suggested that school for teenagers shouldn’t start before 8:30 a.m.

Two arguments have been put forth to keep the secondary schedule as is, (1) changing the times interferes with after-school activities, and (2) this change may lead some parents to have to find care for their primary students. Primary students have less flexibility in the evening because of earlier bedtimes and schools are not daycare centers, there are many programs in Rochester for families in need of after-school care.

School times should follow the needs of the students’ learning first, and this should be guided by the years of science regarding optimal learning and development.

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Whatever the outcome, we can be thankful for a school board who are flexible and willing to re-visit policies upon realization that they may not be working as intended.

Eric Snyder, Rochester

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