To the Editor:

I want to express my support for the Superintendent and B-R school board for escalating the discussion of later start times in our high school and middle school, and to encourage them to commit to this as goal for the 2020 school year.

As Superintendent Russell Lazovick stated at the recent meeting, it has been proven in many studies that if middle schools and high schools start later than 8:30 a.m., the students get more sleep. Most of our teens are operating on hours less than the recommended minimum sleep and they are feeling the negative effects. This is a serious health concern impacting both their physical and mental health as well as their academic and athletic performance.

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Research has shown that the circadian rhythm of teens shifts to several hours later, which means their bodies don’t allow them to fall asleep early enough to get sufficient rest with an earlier wake up time. Thus, many important health organizations including the American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued position statements urging a change to healthy start times in our schools. They acknowledge that sleep deprivation is one of the most serious health problems in the United States. It affects millions of people and that includes our children. Adolescents already have an alarmingly high rate of depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse today, and a lack of sleep is contributing to this.

I realize that this change is not simple and the transition will cause fear and upset to some in the community. But, if we look to other schools (including Princeton), we see the adjustment really can be made successfully. The obstacles of transportation, scheduling athletics and after school activities and a lack of awareness of the link between start times and adolescent health and safety can be overcome with creativity and hard work. The AMA stated in their policy: “While implementing a delayed school start time can be an emotional and potentially stressful issue for school districts, families and members of the community, the health benefits for adolescents far outweigh any potential negative consequences.”
We need to find the solution that is the best fit for our community because we can’t continue to ignore the impact on health and academics that our current schedule is having. It is clear that a change is necessary.

So, I encourage the community to ­examine the research and better understand what is at stake. And I urge the district to work quickly to develop a clear initiative that will find the right solution for Bridgewater-Raritan that puts our students’ health and education first.

Jessica Levitt