November 2016 Update
Hello Parents, Staff and Community Stakeholders,
The School Start Times Advisory Committee (STAC) has been hard at work over the last several months on your behalf and that of our children’s. We would like to provide a brief update on where we are in the process and lay out our current thinking on next steps. Please recall our guiding principle:
To engage all stakeholders in a community-wide conversation to determine what is best for our children and uniquely best for our community.
Our original timeline called for a recommendation at some point this winter. Our current thinking is that we will likely take until the spring to reach that point. If a significant change in start time is approved, it would not go into effect until September 2018. This timing will allow families and schools to plan for any needed changes to their schedules. Whatever we decide, whether it be no change at all or a big change, we will take our time and do this right. Above all, we want to ensure you have the opportunity to participate in addressing this issue, so please do so!
In September we heard from adolescent sleep expert Dr. Judith Owens, Director of Pediatric Sleep at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Owens shared the science behind how sleep changes as our children grow up and what she has learned from many years researching this topic and working with schools across the country to address this issue. A very robust Q&A session followed, with lots of support, healthy skepticism, and thoughtful questions regarding where to go from here. Also, we held a public forum to discuss the results from last spring’s survey on sleep, activities, homework and other factors affecting our children’s schedules. Recordings of these sessions are available online at http://tinyurl.com/mascosleep.
The STAC Options Development team has been charged with pulling together various concrete options to potentially move Masco’s start time later. Each option is going through a vetting process to identify impacts on each stakeholder: students, families, communities, and faculty, and to minimize such impacts wherever possible. This team has decided that to rigorously analyze those impacts we need to secure the services of a transportation consultant at a nominal cost. Given the size of our transportation budget, the complexity and breadth of our bus routes, we’re confident that this analysis is the right move. Below are the main factors being taken into consideration in evaluating our options:
- Healthy schedule for Masconomet and elementary students
- Support academics
- Cost to community and families
- Teachers’ contracts
- Masco’s Extra Help
- Before and after school child care
- Before and after school programs
- Impact on student and staff families
- Impact on schedules
In November we are conducting a Faculty Listening Tour, engaging faculty at Masco and all of the Tri-Town Union elementary schools. These meetings are scheduled for November 7 and 14, during professional development and staff meeting time so we expect attendance to be high. We know all of our faculty have our kids’ best interests at heart, and they are the ones interacting with our kids on a daily basis, so having them involved will undoubtedly lead to a better solution for everyone. Their input will help us refine and develop the options.
As our options and their stakeholder impact are more rigorously developed, we will then conduct community forums to get feedback from everyone on how to achieve what is best for our children and our community. I think that I can speak for everyone involved that we are excited for this community-wide engagement.
Remembering that school start time is just one of the factors that impact the quantity and quality of sleep our kids get, we know that changing start time is not a magic pill that will singlehandedly fix this issue. Only schools can create a schedule that gives teens the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep (start time, homework load). Only families can make sure that teens take advantage of that opportunity by using good sleep habits and making good choices (extracurricular activities, good sleep routines, electronics use).
Our process is reiterated below:
- Done: Gather research
- Done: Conduct Survey #1 to gather data from parents, staff, and students
- Done: Understand and report on Survey #1 Results
- In process: Develop options and study impact on budget and community
- In process: Conduct Faculty Options Listening Tour
- January/February: Publish proposed options and hold public forum
- March/April: Conduct survey #2 to get feedback on options and report on survey results
- Spring 2017: Make recommendations to the Masconomet, Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield school committees, who then will decide on the next step.
We know that no one solution will please everyone, so our goal is to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of students. Help us make that happen. Thanks.
Bill Hodges, Advisory Committee Chair
Masconomet Regional School Committee