MSAD 35 exploring later school start times

MSAD 35 exploring later school start times

By Mark Pechenik, news@seacoastonline.com Feb 28, 2019 SOUTH BERWICK, Maine —

Parents favoring a later start to the school day made their voices heard at Wednesday’s meeting of MSAD 35′s board of directors.

Unlike a Feb. 6 hearing in which parents were nearly evenly divided on whether local schools should have later start times, the Feb. 27 session was dominated by those who were strongly in favor of this change in school district policy.

“The later he starts his day, the better his day is,” stated Dave Bettencourt of South Berwick about his fifth grade son. “Even starting school twenty minutes later would make a big difference to my kids.”

Bettencourt was not alone regarding the impact of later start times.

“My son, who is now in college, told me that, at 7:30 in the morning, teachers are speaking to zombies,” stated Laura Eaton of South Berwick.

Several parents cited research pointing to improved health, including less obesity, better student grades, and reduced tardiness, absenteeism and increased graduation rates for students who have later start times to their school day.

John Caverly, chief operating officer for the school district, and Heidi Early-Hershey, the district’s director of learning, briefly presented the results of the school district’s task force study on the feasibility of a later start to the school day.

Three options have been recommended by the task force. The first would make no changes to the school schedule. The second would start school 20 minutes later. The third option would require a significantly earlier start for elementary school students which, during certain times of the academic year, would find these youngsters waiting at school bus stops in the dark.

A number of parents at Wednesday’s meeting suggested a fourth option – all students start school at 8:30 a.m. Logistically, this could be challenging and could require the purchase of extra school buses, the hiring of more school bus drivers, and other costs, according to MSAD 35 Superintendent Mary C. Nash.

As to next steps, MSAD 35 Chairperson Kerri Tice indicated that the board would discuss the later start issue and decide “where to go next.”

“It could be that we choose one of the options or maybe we go back to the task force and ask them to continue their work,” stated Tice. “Regardless, we value the array of input from the community on this issue.”

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