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Featured Letter: Where’s the motivation to change school start times in Riverhead?

02/17/2016 9:00 AM |

It’s 7:13 a.m. and my daughter just left for Riverhead High School. She would normally catch a 6:08 a.m. bus which would mean getting up at 5 a.m.

We drive every day to avoid that scenario while still paying taxes for a school bus.

Two years ago we tried to tackle the issue of early start times. A petition of 74 signers is still online at change.org. Perhaps we need to reach out again to parents and administrators to make some smart choices. The research is all there, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Secretary of Education. Nine states have written legislation to enact later start times. Schools in 43 states have enacted a later start time that prioritizes health and learning.

Some correlate this to coddling our kids. “Wuss” is the word used by an enlightened reader in response to the Feb. 7 column. We use car seats to protect infants and smoking is outlawed in public places as a health risk. I guess we could repeal those laws and wing it a little. Most folks agree starting school later is common sense for high-schoolers. Check out the research at StartSchoolLater.org.

The trouble here is with sports.

The number of students involved in our high school sports program is not huge (25 percent, give or take), yet they get priority. The balance of sports scheduling and a later start time can be achieved. It requires will and right now there is none. If we spent $1 million on health issues like we do a turf field, we might see some very impressive academic results.

Starting later can also save districts money. Look at Ohio: six different districts — spread out like ours — changed over in 2013 and costs were either neutral or saved with combinations of outsourced busing and combining routes. Studies show it can work to a district’s financial advantage.

Our school board has refused to touch this issue mostly because of the sports wrinkle. The wellness committee will have none of it. Where is the wellness in the decision to ignore this? The challenge is clear but there is little will on the part of the board to approach sports scheduling and its complexities.

We have one more year at the high school and then the issue goes to the next group who wants to fight. Administrators at Riverhead have expressed some concern but sadly are not very motivated. This is a generational issue and unfortunately it will take a few more to change.

Cliff Baldwin, Aquebogue

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