2018-02-02 / Letters

Concerned about change to school start times

To the editor:

I am extremely concerned about the Scarborough Board of Education’s decision to adjust school start times to make our high school the latest start time in the state.

While I have no objection to adjusting the start times of Scarborough schools, our board has approved the wrong plan.

It selected the most dramatic option of several considered causing a domino effect of avoidable problems, including loss of sleep for our youngest students, increased costs for after-school care and details surrounding after school jobs, athletics and activities remain unknown.

Because of these concerns, hundreds of Scarborough families have come together to formally ask the board to revisit this issue and put forth a compromised plan.

My daughter, and hundreds of elementary aged students like her, will now leave home before 7 a.m. and will not return until after 6 p.m.

That is an 11-hour day and a 55-hour week – a work week that is long for most adults let alone a 5-year-old. The lengthened bus routes will double the time many kids spend on the school bus with rides totaling nearly two hours per day. I would challenge our school leadership to ride the school bus for two hours every day to travel 3 or 4 miles to work. Time is precious to all of us and this is a waste.

To make this change so that high school students can achieve optimal sleep requirements is a trend happening nationwide. I support that, but our youngest children need the most sleep of any age group and Scarborough’s plan places priority on high school sleep requirements and dismisses elementary school sleep requirements.

If a child returns home at 6 p.m. each night and must wake by 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. bus, in order to achieve the appropriate amount of sleep as recommended by pediatric guidelines, then the kid will have to go to bed immediately when he or she gets home.

Despite this, Scarborough’s superintendent and the board of education not only accept this plan, they somehow think it’s a good idea? Hundreds of parents have asked questions, voiced concerns, attended the meetings and none of the concerns have been adequately addressed.

Some parents are able to stay home. Some parents are able to adjust work schedules. Some parents can work from home and some can drive their students to school to avoid the long bus rides. But many cannot. Working is not a choice for me. It is a must. My work hours are not a choice, but a must.

Making this change is a choice for the board. Being a school board official comes with the responsibility to weigh all the needs of this community, not just some. The job also comes with the obligation to listen, not dismiss concerns with form letters.

Dozens of communities in Maine have adjusted school start times with no controversy. In many places it has been a welcome change, but in Scarborough it has been laden with concern since the beginning.

While I respect the intention, I strongly believe that this is the wrong plan for Scarborough. We need a compromised solution for the well-being of all of our students. The damage this has caused is deep.

Our most passionate, dedicated supporters of the school system are at odds. Scarborough should work on unifying, not further dividing this group by forcing something on us that many do not want.

Hannah Temple
Scarborough

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