Later Start Times for Grades 6-12 Still a Health Board Priority

The Board of Health will continue its advocacy for later start times at John Glenn Middle School and Bedford High School.

The topic was among the yearly goals the board addressed at its regular meeting Monday.

Board Chair Susan Schwartz explained that in establishing goals, members should consider a common framework, including public health concerns they are trying to address, and actions and activities the board can undertake,

Member Maureen Richichi said she hopes the board can partner with the School Committee “to review evidence, increase awareness, and explore potential solutions.” She said she will reach out to School Committee Chair Brad Morrison to discuss possible follow-up.

Acknowledging that “we are not in charge of this process,” Richichi said, “Insufficient sleep affecting physical and mental health is a public health concern.”

Asked about the issue Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad acknowledged that it remains on the agenda. “We look forward to working with the Board of Health and all other interested community members who are interested in school start times,” he wrote in an email.

This issue isn’t new. The most recent pitch was made in June 2021, when Board of Health members felt that the post-Covid transition period might be an apt time to make a change.

Current start times are 7:40 a.m. at the middle school and 7:45 a.m. at the high school.

School Committee members acknowledge the validity of health concerns, but they have pointed to other factors that make start times an interlocking variable – school bus scheduling, parents’ work schedules, after-school child care, timing of interscholastic athletics.

Member Ann Kiessling said at the meeting that the health of the students should be the highest priority, and the Board of Health should try to advocate stronger for change. She said she hopes a School Committee member can meet with the Board of Health on the issue,

School districts that have chosen to adjust start times for middle and high school days have taken one to three years for a successful implementation, Richichi said, and have worked with all stakeholders and “full community support.”

The exigencies of the pandemic precluded implementation of an immediate change, she said, and “the time is right, possibly now, to start moving forward. But this is not ours to drive.”

Other goals on the Board of Health list for 2022-2023 are related to climate change, tobacco use, mental health, and biosafety regulations.

Members also plan to address gun violence, considered a national “public health epidemic,” Richichi said. Local boards of health can work with police departments to campaign for safe storage of firearms, she said, as well as buyback programs.;


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Susan Andelman
Susan Andelman
15 days ago

This has been discussed for quite some time. I hope we can start acting on these recommendations so that we can improve our kids health. It’s not that complicated.

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