BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The issue of potential later school starting times for Bridgewater-Raritan students seems to be picking up steam.
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said June 11 that surveys regarding the matter had been returned by over 1,600 parents, more than 1,000 students and at least 740 staff members up to that date.
“It’s going to be an incredibly interesting conversation this fall,” said Lazovick.
He had said at an earlier school board meeting that district administrators attended a program in the Montgomery Public School district, which had been about moving forward as a county regarding later school starting times. Sample timelines had been assembled and presented, along with research, policies and other items, and Lazovick added that a “critical mass” regarding an 8:30 a.m. start time had been reached, with a targeted start date of Sept. 2020.
Parent Jessica Levitt, who has two children in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District and who has spearheaded the push for later starting times, spoke once more at the board’s most recent meeting. She mentioned 25 years of research on the subject of earlier school starting times, which she said will help teenagers deal with chronic fatigue that can result from their altered biology in those years of their lives.
“They’re simply not able to get enough sleep,” she said.
Levitt had said previously that teenagers typically require eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, and that they also have different circadian rhythms, or sleep-wake cycles, than adults.
She listed disorders and problems that can result from students not getting enough sleep, including falling asleep in class, falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle and relying on drugs and caffeine to stay awake, all while their grades can suffer.
She also spoke of another myth regarding the possible changing of school start times, one that believes there is simply “no solution” to the problem. She then pointed out that times change, and that people once drove cars without wearing seatbelts, or that smoking was once permitted almost anywhere.
She said she hopes the board will take those factors into account, and come up with a solid plan regarding the alteration of school start times, and she once more offered her assistance.
“A change like this is not minor, and certainly should be rushed into,” said Levitt, although she said she still still felt it could be accomplished in 2020.