The Rootstown Board of Education has voted to end any discussion of changing school start times until county or state education authorities recommend that all districts change their start times.
The unanimous action came Monday without discussion three months after a study committee recommended that middle and high school classes start an hour later at 8:30 a.m. to help prevent sleep deprivation in middle and high school students.
The Rootstown School Start Time Committee recommended that middle and high school classes start at 8:30 a.m. or later while elementary school classes could start at 7:30 a.m., although there was discussion of other options for that change, said Stacy Simera, a Rootstown mother and social worker who has been talking about the health and education implications of sleep deprivation on adolescents.
The committee also held a community meeting on Jan. 26 to explain the issues and discuss its recommendations. Simera said parents were concerned about the effects of the early start time on younger children, but recognized the issue with adolescents.
Simera said research showed adolescents' bodies release melatonin about an hour and a half later than adults or children, meaning their bodies tell them to stay up later and sleep in later than younger children or parents.
Hundreds of school across the country, including Hudson and Parma in northeast Ohio, have made the change and found benefits, Simera said
The board resolution says that "upon receipt of such county or state-wide recommendations" the Rootstown board will proceed with investigations to see if the recommendations should be acted on. The board reserved the power to change school start times if it would reduce transportation expenses, or any unforeseen circumstances.
The board also said it could restart the discussion if "a simple majority of current Rootstown Local School District student households support such a change."
Simera said she believes Rootstown will change it's start time, but won't be the first in Portage to do so.
"I have the feeling Rootstown is going to watch other schools change. And they will change when they see that it can be done successfully, and has been done successfully."
Later start times for adolescents have been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and others, Simera said, "because the evidence is so good" of the health effects on teenagers.
Simera said an on-line petition (at www.signon.org, search for northeast Ohio) encouraging schools to change start times has been gaining support among mental health, health and education professionals as well as police, fire and emergency medical first responders and parents.
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