Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 27 November 2009 00:00
A study of adolescent sleep patterns and the resulting academic performance has led the Roslyn School District to conduct an online survey, one that will help to determine if the start times at Roslyn schools will change.
In recent issues of The Roslyn News, the school district has advertised the survey, explaining the possible changes in policy and four different scenarios for pickup times for students who take the bus to school.
The survey ended on Nov. 16. And now, the Board of Education will host a special forum about start times on Monday, Nov. 30 from 7:30-9:00 p.m. in the Roslyn High School auditorium. The community will have an opportunity to receive additional background information and to voice their opinions about the issue. (See story, page 5).
However, parents in the district continue to express their concerns to any changes in the pickup hours. At the Nov. 19 board of education meeting, a group of eight parents presented a letter and a list of concerns to the BOE.
Among the concerns by such parents are safety and liability, school performance by both teachers and students, childcare, and the effect on family life.
More specifically, the parents claim that earlier pickup hours would expose the district to cases of “higher tardiness and absenteeism,” to making pickups while it is still dark outside, to sleep deprivation, to a need for more after school and extended day care programs and the resulting “financial burden on working families,” and to a lack of quality time between parents and children.
The parents also claim that none of the 10 other school districts in the area start elementary school before 8:25 a.m. If the Roslyn district stands out with earlier hours, it may dissuade young families from moving to Roslyn, thus affecting property values.
The parents also gave their thoughts on “moving forward.” That included disregarding what they term as an inaccurate survey, substituting it instead for a cost analysis on the proposed change, hiring a transportation specialist to look at the busing system, commissioning a study to prove the “beneficial effects on elementary school students with a 7:30 a.m. or 7:40 a.m. start time,” and to develop a “reasonable plan” that would not have “such a dramatic impact on the health and safety of…young children, but would still support…older children.”
“[We] do not believe that trying to fix the high school and middle school start time issue at the expense of 4-12-year-olds is the appropriate course of action,” the letter stated. “The one half hour gain is insignificant compared to the one-one half hours the proposal changes [in] the elementary school hours.”
The letter also noted that Roslyn consistently ranks in the top 5 to 10 percent of public school surveys in New York State. Therefore, with all the questions involved in such a change, the district shouldn’t be “looking to fix something that isn’t broken.”
The school district’s presentation, which can also be viewed at its website, www.roslynschools.org, contends that teenagers “do need more sleep” than pre-adolescents and that adolescents who are deprived of sleep may perform poorly in school, while also suffering from depression.
At the same time, the school district has acknowledged that if younger students were switched to earlier pickup times, it would result in adjustments by both parents and their children, younger children “at times” waiting in the dark for early morning pickups, and “potential child care problems” as older siblings would not be home to receive younger siblings.
The current pickup schedule has high school students being picked up first, followed by middle school and elementary school students. A second scenario would have Harbor Hill and East Hills students being picked up first, followed by high school students, and then students from the Heights school and the middle School. Neither scenario would incur extra costs to the district.
A third scenario would also have Harbor Hill and East Hills students picked up first. High school students would be picked up second, but at a slightly later time. A third scenario would have high school students being picked up last, behind both elementary and middle school students. According to school district officials, the third scenario would cost the district approximately $62,000, while the fourth scenario would cost the district an extra $148,000 and three part time bus drivers. School district officials said that any possible changes would go into effect no sooner than September 2010.