Starting High School Later Measure At School Committee Tuesday

Photo: More zzzzzzzs for high schoolers.

The group pushing for a later starting time for Belmont High School students will present a petition and a formal request to the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7 to begin steps that will result in high schoolers getting more sleep.

Start School Later Belmont will ask the committee to establish a task force to explore what needs to be developed to allow Belmont High School to begin the school day at a later time, said Jess Hausman, the new chair of the organization.

Currently, Belmont High School’s opens at 7:35 a.m. with classes dismissed at 2:25 p.m.

“We’re asking the School Committee to explore the issue in depth,” said Hausman in an email to the Belmontonian, concluding with the task force resolving how much later can high school students begin their day. 

“On Feb. 28 (hopefully) the [committee] will meet again and vote on this resolution to determine whether they will or will not form this task force,” she said. SSL Belmont believes it will take up to a year to develop a plan that will work for the committee and a formal vote can be held with implementation occurring in the fall of 2018.

Hausman said the reaction to the group’s proposal across different segments of the Belmont community has been overwhelmingly positive. SSL Belmont released the on-line petition to the public on Jan. 30, and by Feb. 5, it reached 288 signatures. 

“We are seeking up to 500 by the time the [committee] vote comes up for the task force resolution which will occur Feb 28, hopefully,” said Hausman. 

The science behind a later starting time for high school students is growing, according to School Committee member Andrea Prestwich, who started SSL in Belmont and campaigning in part on its passage.

“It’s a nationwide problem,” said Prestwich in November 2015, noting that sleep-deprived teens are more depressed, more likely to suffer from diabetes; their immune systems are compromised, can not accept normal levels of stress, impacting academics and are more suspectable to sports injuries.

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