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School Start Time Survey Results

More Barrington parents oppose than favor changing school start times, but the margin is small and many parents have no opinion.

More Barrington parents oppose a change in school start times than favor it right now, according to an online survey commissioned by the School Committee.

But the margin is small -- 44 to 39 percent -- and approximately 17 percent of all parents have no opinion. The survey was filled out by 860 parents; the total number of parents, teachers, and students who took the survey was 1,245.

Given this conclusion, the School Committee has decided that there is enough support to continue the discussion of changing the school start times to try to get more sleep for teens.

Those results were made public at a workshop in the Barrington High School library. Dr. Megan Douglas, who designed the survey as a member of the Health and Wellness Committee of the school board, gave a presentation on the results.

School Committee member Robert Shea, who heads the Health and Wellness Committee, introduced Douglas and said the results indicate “we need to keep the conversation going.”

“They were about what we expected,” said Shea of the results. “So, now we need to move beyond the Health and Wellness Committee.”

Parents of elementary pupils were the most strongly against changing the school start time – approximately 44 to 28 percent but with 28 percent having no opinion.

Middle school and high school parents have the strongest opinions right now – 48 percent against and 44 percent in favor with only about 8 percent having no opinion.

Hampden Meadows School parents favor changing the school start time by a 46 to 38 percent margin with 18 percent having no opinion.

Parents also said that the most important factors in making a decision are the educational impact on students and their health and well-being. Most of their concerns are about extracurricular activities, child care, homework and transportation.

Among the other conclusions was that to alleviate concerns of parents, there needs to be a wider discussion of actual schedule options and general information on research into the benefits of more sleep to teens and the experiences of other districts that changed school start times.

Logistical issues got a significant amount of attention at the workshop as well. Two representatives from the First Student bus company, which operates 9 school busses in Barrington right now, answered questions and offered 7 options for transportation if the school start time changes.

All of the options would require an increase in busses, ranging from 11 to 19. The cost to Barrington for each bus is $52,000 a year, said Superintendent Robert McIntyre.

The representatives -- regional manager Bill Roach and local manager Francisco Montero -- were asked to do a separate study that shows exactly how much time would be needed to transport students on the routes to the schools.

They were told to tell Barrington what start times for Hampden Meadows and the middle and high school would be workable with the elementary start times staying approximately the same. That information is expected to be made available within 30 days.

School Committee member Chris Ramsden said “I am still looking for more data on the academic impact” of changing the start time to later in the morning for teens. “I don’t think it’s there.”

“The fundamental issue remains the same,” said School Committee Chairman Patrick Guida. “Is it a good idea? Our focus needs to be in the best interests of kids.”

Indeed, the benefit of changing the school start times is predicated on teens getting more sleep, which the science of sleep indicates should improve academic and athletic performance. That is the issue that is driving the push for changing the school start times at the middle and high schools, which would then ripples through all the schools.

Manifold Witness May 08, 2012 at 12:17 PM
$988,000 a year?! It’s time for the School Committee to stop playing with biased-sleep-study- pseudoscience & get the schools up to fire code. Changing start times will cost up to $988,000 a year. That price tag wasn’t in the “survey”. The taxpayers must feel kind of suckered. The survey was ridiculously non-scientific, biased in favor of late starts, & didn’t reveal the costs. And yet it still showed that parents don’t want to change to late starts. Imagine if the cost implications had been fully disclosed. Pseudoscience should not substitute for common sense. Especially when the pseudoscience comes with such a hefty price tag. But, as expected, the School Committee will barrel ahead. Bus company reps were asked to do a study of bus routes as they relate to the increased costs. The school committee next will attempt to “alleviate concerns of parents”, with “a wider discussion of actual schedule options and general information on research into the benefits of more sleep to teens and the experiences of other districts that changed school start times”. Translation of that education-speak: the School Committee will keep trying to badger the parents into something the parents don’t want at a cost the taxpayers can’t afford. All for no good reason. Conclusion: Barnum & Bailey have nothing on Douglas & Shea. The School Committee should wake up & for starters, get the schools in compliance with the fire code.
Just Another Working Mom May 08, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I agree 100%. Who is this 'committee' anyway? I'd like to see the breakdown of their school aged children. Yes, we all got the survey. Most of us filled it out. And I'd like to think that most of us know our responses mean nothing, just a way to placate parents. I'd like to see the survey results, broken down by grade level. If any committee believes they have fooled anyone in this case, they are sadly mistaken. In the end, who suffers... the kids.
SteepleRunner May 08, 2012 at 03:25 PM
--So, if the Presidential election results come in at 44% to 39%, do we keep the election and campaigning going? Rather than unscientific surveys, put it up for a referendum and be done with it. That way all of the aspects of such a change can be discussed at once (transportation costs, staff salaries, actual impact on academic performance, etc.). --Isn't this a slippery slope? Scientific studies show many factors impacting student performance (income levels, family structure, etc.). Are we going to start changing requirements that address these as well? --Changing school times so students can perform better? Maybe my boss should change my working hours so I can perform better? How are we serving our students if we can't encourage them to be responsible for their own sleep and health? Their future employers won't coddle them that way. --Finally, isn't it the responsibility of the parents to ensure their child is getting the appropriate sleep?
Local Mom May 09, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Not sure how anyone's feedback got fairly counted for this "exercise". The actual electronic survey at the parent level was not accessible for most of the time the survey was being pursued due to technical difficulties. The overwhelming majority of anecdotal comments heard around town were firmly against later start times, particularly at the high school where competitive sports, jobs, and other non-school activities would be impacted and kids would go to bed even later than they do now. It's up to the parents/families to make sure the kids are in bed at a decent hour so they can function in the morning. The louder message around town was that Hampden Meadows starts too late - especially if you have kids in multiple schools, and two working parents - which is a high percentage of families now. Point these great minds and any available dollars towards finding a way to replace that god-forsaken Middle School facility.

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