Teachers respond positively to new start time

Adi Saligrama, News Editor

In late February the school committee announced that it had passed a resolution to implement a delayed start time for next year. Among the most significant changes to the schedule is that the first period will now start at 8:45 a.m., compared to 7:35 a.m. this year. Homeroom will also be eliminated in favor of attendance taken by first block teachers.

Overwhelmingly, teachers are positive about the new start time, suggesting that it will help students be more productive and less fatigued throughout the day. History department head Kerry Dunne is one teacher who thinks the net impact of the delayed start time will be extremely positive.

“I very much think the new start time is a positive thing, even if there are complications to work out with athletics. I’m in my 20th year of teaching in high schools, and for this whole time, I’ve wished that I could start teaching later,” Dunne said. “Not only do I support it, but I wish it had happened across the state 20 years ago.”

History teacher Susan Bairstow emphasized the importance of re-evaluating the school structure. She felt that the administration’s adoption of a new start time was definitely a step in the right direction.

“I feel like we’ve been doing school the same way for a long time, and some of the new initiatives to look at how we’re doing school are important. I think the late start makes sense for our students,” Bairstow said.

Persistent concerns about a later start time and consequently a later dismissal include its impact on athletics. Still, athletic director Mike McGrath is confident that his department can work out a solution that would minimize the effect that a later dismissal would have on student-athletes.

“There will be a learning curve, especially with athletics, as students will be getting out a little later than they typically are used to. I still think that we can figure out, as a department, how we can ensure that our student-athletes get proper time to warm up and avoid safety issues, and still keep them in class as long as possible,” McGrath said.

Teachers are also particularly excited by the addition of a 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. block before first period starts, which would occur one day per eight-day rotation. The new block’s purpose is for students to have an option to meet with faculty, which Dunne noted would offer several benefits for both students and teachers.

“It’s not like you’ll be popping in anymore and won’t know if you’ll actually find a teacher; you know that they will be there, and it will be easier to find a time to meet,” Dunne said. “I think it will be helpful to use as a designated makeup time, especially for students with few frees, and I’d definitely guide students towards that.”

Science teacher Christine Chiodo was also hopeful about the delayed start time, although she held some concerns about how the new schedule combined with social media usage could affect students’ sleep patterns.

“There is good data and research that says that teenagers’ circadian rhythms are different from those of adults, and that they do fall asleep later and get up later,” Chiodo said. “However, I do get a sense that time on devices and social media will extend later in the night, and homework might happen even later. This would force students to stay up even later to get that work done, impacting how they feel in the morning.”

While Dunne was cognizant about possible concerns related to students staying up later, she thought that more research on later start time policies could look into this issue and make it easier to universalize these policies.

“I think that it’s something where we can get survey data and capture student input. I’d like to think that students would feel more well rested, and their overall well-being will be improved. For implementing a policy like this statewide, it would be compelling to have more data available about its impact in Weston,” Dunne said. “It could even be a great project for a statistics class to take on, to see what data we can analyze from this.”

The new schedule and start time will continue to be researched, discussed and refined through the rest of the year before it makes its debut in September.