Start Time for Watertown High School Moving Later Starting Fall of 2018

Print More

Watertown High School will start 35 minutes later starting in the fall of 2018 after the School Committee voted to approve the school start time change on Monday night. 

Both the high school and Watertown Middle School will start at 8:30 a.m., while Cunniff, Hosmer and Lowell elementary schools will start at 8:15 a.m.

Research shows benefit of moving the start of school later is that high school students will be more ready to learn because it is more inline with adolescents’ biological clocks, said School Committee Chairman John Portz.

“In the education world often times with research you have conflicting opinions. This is an issue where there is very little conflict,” Portz said.

The change was made after more than two years of discussion and research by Watertown School officials. After an initial study by the School Start Time Task Force, the same group was asked to come up with recommendations for how to implement a time change and how it would impact other schools in town.

This fall, the district conducted four public forums about the school start time change, all of which were attended by Superintendent Dede Galdston. The district also conducted an online survey.

They received input for and against changing the start time. Some of the pros for changing the time later, Galdston said, were: students would get more sleep, have more time for breakfast and would be less likely to be late for school. On the con side, people worried about less time for after school activities, less time for homework and conflicts for students who take care of younger siblings.

Galdston added that all superintendents of schools in the Middlesex League, the athletic league which Watertown is a member, signed a letter last year agreeing to support moving school start time later.

Impact on Elementary Schools

Along with the later start time for the secondary schools, an earlier start time was considered for the elementary schools. This would allow the School District to continue busing students to the middle school and Hosmer Elementary School. If the elementary school starting times stayed the same busing costs may rise, and bus fees may increase.

People worried about getting their children up in time for school, and whether they would have time to eat before school. Also, they worried that students from homes where both parents work would be home alone for a longer period.

High School Survey

The High School’s student representatives to the School Committee, Lauren Petrillo and Emily Koufos, conducted surveys of WHS students using Google Survey and reported their findings to the School Committee.

They looked at moving start time 40 minutes later, 30 minutes, 20 minutes and 15 minutes. The later the start time the more strong feeling both for and against, and vice versa. About 50 students said starting 40 minutes later wold have a “large positive impact” while 70 said it would have a “large negative impact.”

Students surveyed said the biggest pros were that they would get more sleep, would get fewer tardies and would reduce stress. The biggest cons were that after-school activities would start later, they would start homework later and it would impact students  who workafter school. Some also said it would make it harder to get to and from school.

School Committee Support

Members of the School Committee supported the change because it would be better adolescents.

“It is important to do what’s best for students, but bus fees, teachers getting to work and the impact on family schedules are all real concerns,” said School Committee Vice Chair Kendra Foley, who added that by making the decision 9 months before the change families will be able to make the necessary adjustments.

Mark Sideris, who is Town Council President and on the School Committee, said he has some serious concerns of the financial impact on students and families.

“I am concerned about kids who go to work after school. Some need to have part time jobs as part of supporting their family,” Sideris said. “And we have not had the important discussion of busing costs.”

School Committee member Guido Guidotti said research shows that a lack of sleep can have many negative effects on adolescents: substance abuse, ADHD, depression, poor academic performance and motor vehicle accidents.

Elizabeth Yusem said she supports changing the start time, but said she is also concerned about the impacts on families and school staff.

The School Committee voted unanimously to support moving the start time for the high school and middle school later and keeping elementary schools at an 8:15 start time (Hosmer’s start time will be moved 15 minutes earlier).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *