Start School Later Masconomet

Start School Later Masconomet is a group of concerned parents, students, and citizens working collaboratively to educate the Tri-Town community and Masconomet Regional School District (Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield Massachusetts) about the importance of healthy sleep in adolescents’ lives – from safety, to learning, physical and mental wellness, and athletic performance. Founded in December 2015, Start School Later Masconomet is a chapter of national advocacy organization, Start School Later.

Did you miss the community presentations? Watch the recordings!

Who is the Start Times Advisory Committee (STAC)?

The Masconomet Start Times Advisory Committee is holding regular meetings to explore the issue of start time, and to develop options for how Masconomet might move its start time to align with doctor’s recommendations. Visit the STAC web page to learn more.

I’m ready to help make this happen – what can I do?

It’s time to face facts: our children suffer from chronic sleep deprivation

  • Teens, unlike adults, need a lot of sleep. That’s because their brains are undergoing the largest growth and reorganization since they were toddlers.
  • The average teen needs 8-10 hours of sleep each night. The average teen needs 9.2 hours of sleep as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
  • Changes in biology cause a phase shift in teen sleep patterns so that the average teen gets sleepy after 11pm at night and feels awake after 8am.
  • Two out of three American teens do not get the 9+ hours of sleep they need each night.
  • The average American teen is getting around 7 hours of sleep each night. This can have disastrous consequences including poorer grades, moodiness, engaging in risky behavior, increased risk of injury and car accidents, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.
  • 90% of parents believe that their teens are getting enough sleep.
  • The Masconomet Regional School district starts classes at 7:35am and the first bus is picking up students at 6:25am. Most Masconomet students are waking between 5:30am and 6:30am to get to school, and yet their bodies are as sleepy at that time as adults are between 3am and 4am.
  • To get enough sleep, Masconomet students need to be falling asleep at about 9pm each night. This is during the “forbidden zone”, a time when we feel alert in the evening and it’s impossible to fall asleep. For adults, this would be like trying to fall asleep at 7pm.
  • The science is clear: a later start time is more healthy for our children and leads to more sleep, which means better academic results, better social-emotional outcome, even better achievement in athletics! Study after study shows that when schools start at times that align with their natural schedule, teens get more sleep. (See Learn MoreSources, and 1-page handouts).
  • The public support is there: the Calendar Survey found that 69% of 2,300 community members (parents, students, teachers) agree that a later start time would be better for our children (see Background).
  • Worried? You shouldn’t be! A definitive study by Dr. Kyla Wahlstom in 2001 and 2014 found that 92% of parents preferred later times after one year despite earlier concerns of busing, athletics, child care. (see Concerns)
  • While it is up to parents to ensure a healthy bedtime, it is up to schools to ensure a healthy waking time. Members of the public may disagree, scientists are unanimous: a later start time means that teens get more sleep.

Want to learn more fast facts? Check out our 1-page handouts for Parents, Health Care workers, Mental Health workers, teachers, coaches and athletes, police officers, and parents of children in special education.

A tipping point in Massachusetts

All over Massachusetts, towns are recognizing that the time to act has arrived. Forward thinking school leaders and parents are putting their children’s health and well being first.

  • Beverly, North Andover, Duxbury, Eastham, Hingham, Medway, Nauset Regional, Sharon, and the Worcester middle schools have already moved start time later.
  • The Massachusetts Middlesex League schools include Arlington, Melrose, Watertown, Belmont, Reading, Wilmington, Burlington, Stoneham, and Winchester all co-signed a letter agreeing to move start time to 8:00-8:30am by the fall of 2018.
  • Masconomet joins other districts in the state that are currently investigating a change in start time, including: Georgetown, Newburyport, North Reading, Boston, Concord-Carlisle, Newton, Northborough-Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Ashland, and Westborough.

Read the Boston Globe article: Students find more awareness with later starts (more Boston Globe articles can be found in Sources).

We think another way to look at this is turn the issue around: if someone came to you and said: “I have a plan for the Masconomet Middle School and High School. My plan will cause their health and grades to suffer. It will also increase injuries during athletics, the children will exercise less and suffer higher rates of obesity. My plan will lead to more depression, and more behavioral problems at school and at home. Our students will be more likely to take up drugs, alcohol, and engage in risky behaviors.” Is there any benefit that I could offer that would make you support this plan?

For years we used lead paint in our homes without understanding the health effects, but once we understood them, we made policies to protect ourselves and our children. Poor alignment between the school schedule and a teenager’s natural sleep cycle is a serious health and safety issue for our children, just like lead paint, BPA plastic in bottles, bike helmets, cigarette smoking, or car seats. Now that the science is clear, it’s time for us to make changes that will ensure that our children have the best possible chance of success, and to ensure their health and safety.