The Watertown Public Schools could make some significant changes to the school start times, moving the middle and high schools later and the elementary schools earlier. These changes will be discussed at a set of upcoming forums.
The School Committee received a report from the committee looking into start times over the summer, where a couple of options were laid out (read more here). On Monday, the School Committee was told that the district will take a serious look at the option to start Watertown High School and Watertown Middle School at 8:30 a.m. and moving the elementary schools to start at and earlier hour.
Superintendent Dede Galdston sent out the following letter about the school start time changes and the forums:
The Watertown Public School District is currently considering changes to the start and end times for all of our schools beginning in the fall of 2018. The reasons for considering this move are many with the most important being to improve educational opportunities for all of our students based upon optimal times for student learning to occur. Parents of teens may notice that their children who used to jump out of bed when in elementary school are far more apt to hit snooze multiple times. This may be directly related to changes in their circadian rhythm as their brain produces the sleep hormone melatonin later at night as they enter adolescence.
Over the past several years, mounting research indicates that optimal learning for adolescents begins at or after 8:30 in the morning. Currently, Watertown High School begins at 7:55 and Watertown Middle School begins at 7:40. Last year, the District formed a Start Time Task Force which studied the research and what the impact of changing start times would be. The Task Force produced a report with two options being recommended both of which have secondary schools starting at 8:30, with elementary schools starting at either 8:15 or 7:50. The School Committee will make the decision regarding start times later this fall and is now looking for feedback from the larger community to help inform their decision.
The District will hold a series of community forums at the end of September to present the proposals for start times along with the rationale for the change and to gather feedback from community members. The meetings will be held on the following dates:
Tuesday, September 26, 8:30 AM at Hosmer School Auditorium
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 PM at Watertown High School, Lecture Hall
Thursday, September 28, 8:35 AM at Lowell School Cafeteria
Thursday, September 28, 6:30 PM at Watertown Middle School, Auditorium
Additionally, I will be holding a Superintendent’s Coffee on September 20 at 9:00 a.m. and again on September 21 at 7:00 at the Phillips Administration Building, with the conversation focusing on school start times. If you are not able to attend any of these meetings, you can provide feedback via an online survey at: https://goo.gl/forms/YU02URTOQ8slKs593
Have a great evening,
Dede Galdston, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Watertown Public Schools