Today is Daylight Savings Time, the biannual event that everyone agrees is a bad idea yet somehow persists. With it will come a Monday of sleep-deprived children (and teachers) struggling to consciousness at too early a time. This lack of sleep will lead to all sorts of bad outcomes from behavioral issues to poor performance. And yet…it continues to ruin our weekends twice a year.
The Inquirer has an article along these lines about the continuing struggles districts are facing in efforts to move back school start times for older children. The whole piece is worth reading.
The fact that relatively few districts have acted is also self-reinforcing: A district that makes a shift falls out of step with most others, including for scheduling athletic contests.
“There is no critical mass of districts that have done this,” said Jim Crisfield, superintendent of the Wissahickon School District, which recently postponed a vote on start-time changes that a survey found weren’t supported by most students or staff.
Crisfield noted that while some districts have delayed high school start times — Tredyffrin/Easttown, Phoenixville, and Unionville-Chadds Ford among them — most haven’t gone as far as pushing them to 8:30, the standard advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association. (Among the exceptions: “the holy grail of Radnor,” Crisfield said, and Garnet Valley.)
“It’s not like the rest of us don’t want to do it or don’t believe in the science — we do,” Crisfield said. “It’s just that the challenges are very real.”
WSSD started along its path studying school start times in 2019 with a school board motion, but the pandemic sidelined that and little progress has been made since as the main proponents are no longer on the board. With the strategic plan and other priorities, it seems like this has fallen down the list even though it is a central piece of the social-emotional wellness the district claims to value. The district still has an extensive list of FAQs on an archived version of the website. The last mention I see is 2021, so it’s fallen aside for a while now.
WSSD participates in all sorts of organizations involving other school districts. Maybe there needs to be a more extensive conversation county-wide to move all our school districts together to alleviate many of the problems relating to scheduling athletics and vocational programs. I haven’t heard anything along those lines, maybe that’s a key conversation that needs to start. The conversation needs to start somewhere at least, because as the Inquirer’s article indicates, it seems the districts aren’t getting anywhere on their own.