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Rootstown school board says 'no' to change of class start times

By Mike sever | staff writer Published: February 14, 2013 4:00 AM

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.

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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.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1125 or msever@recordpub.com

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anonymous Feb 16, 2013 10:00 AM

Lets just say the school changed the start times. What happens to the teens bio/clock when we set the clock 1 hour ahead in the spring and 1 hour back in the fall? Would we have to change start times to correspond to the daylight savings time? PLEASE EXPLAIN. I read some of the sleep studies, all experts agree that you(teens)can reset your circadian rhythm bio/clock. It maybe difficult, but it can be done if you want to do it. That maybe to much trouble for parents to do, but do it for your kids. Only the parents can make sure the child is getting enough sleep. It is not the schools start times or the schools problem.... It's the parents problem. Make the kids adjust their schedules accordingly, and use their time wisely! What does happen to Johnny's bio/clock when we spring forward 1 hour and fall back 1 hour?

anonymous Feb 16, 2013 8:57 AM

(These posts can be confusing if you don't catch that you have to start at the bottom and read up.) To directly quote the comment below: "Putting good sleep habits into practice is particularly difficult for teenagers. Not only do their own circadian rhythms fight against going to sleep early, but many teens don't have any control over the time they wake up." That's the problem! And the key word in the next sentence is "try" - teens can "try" to adapt to us adults messing with mother nature - but they obviously aren't successful if just an hour difference in school start times causes so much improvement in health for teens around the country at schools that have changed. And we would hope the teachers support it - they are the ones right there seeing it all unfold. The post below me does give good tips, great tips, for sleep hygeine that everyone should follow - but unfortunately those tips aren't enough for our adolescents. And while you're on Frontline - check out the interview with Mary Carskadon.

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 9:20 PM

Learning Good Sleep Habits....Putting good sleep habits into practice is particularly difficult for teenagers. Not only do their own circadian rhythms fight against going to sleep early, but many teens don't have any control over the time they wake up. Teens can do something to try to bring their internal body clock forward. Sleep experts say dimming the lights at night and getting lots of daylight in the morning can help. Having a routine bedtime of 10 p.m., sleeping in a cool environment and turning OFF music, the Internet, and televisions would help to reset the body clock. And though sleeping in is a good thing, trying to get up after only an extra hour or two is a lot better than "binge-sleeping" on the weekends. If a student is used to getting up at 6:30 a.m., they shouldn't sleep until noon on the weekend. That simply confuses their bodies. And lots of sports helps, too -- better earlier in the day than late, from.... "Adolesence and Sleep" Frontline Sarah Spinks.... Parents should help Johnny reset his bio/clock, instead of changing start times for school/everybody. The more I read about this subject, it is becoming apparent the teachers/union is pushing the issue of changing start times?

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 2:16 PM

We have discussed and debated this topic more here on this site than the School Board did before they dismissed it, that is what is really troubling. Obviously some are for it and some are not, but I truly believe if the School Board members had open and productive conversations on this topic they could have made some changes they everyone could support. That is what they are elected to do and in this situation, regardless of your stance, they have failed in their responsibilities. Perhaps new board members who will serve the community are needed.

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 12:37 PM

Myers:: I have read the article and just don't agree with the science. I can show studies that show no proof of this. As I said its just what study you believe. There's alot of bad science out there and mis-read data.

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 10:27 AM

Everyone in town knows that the Rootstown school board is a joke. They don't do anything at all - not that they're qualified anyways. There should be minimum education requirements to sit on a school board. What is surprising is that the superintendent - who should be smart enough to recognize the science and the value of the proposed change - was part of this backwards move. What will they do next, vote down football helmets ('the kids should be reponsible enough not to get a concussion') or remove the school nurse and the flashing school zone signs since they obviously don't think the school should have to worry about health or safety?

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 9:53 AM

I think your missing the science behind this. Children going through puberty have a natural shift to their sleep patterns. Their bodies release melatonin, the chemical released by the body which helps it go to sleep, later than people not going through puberty. I have a teenage son who goes to bed each night at 9pm, however he doesn't fall asleep until after 10. No fault of his, just a teenage body works differently. This is based on research that has been endorsed by respected medical organizations. It's not about the parents being irresponsible, it's about how puberty affects the body.

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 9:33 AM

Samurai: Wouldn't it be more responsible for the parents to make the adjustments instead of changing start times for everybody?

anonymous Feb 15, 2013 4:22 AM

No, problem is not solved. There has been sound research done on this topic with documented results. Schools who have made this simple adjustment to their schedule have had very impressive results. I don't understand why people would resist a change that offers benefits without costs, maybe thats why tax dollars are rarely used efficiently.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 10:24 PM

OhioParent: There are 24 hours in a day about 8 hrs. for school. That leaves 16 hrs after school to eat, sleep, and be merry. Be a responsible parent and get the kid to bed so he/she will be awake and alert when the school bell rings. What are you going to do when we Spring forward 1 hour? Or fall back 1 hour in the fall. The teens biological clock will be all messed up. If school starts at 8 a.m....adjust your kids sleeping schedule accordingly. Problem solved.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 8:32 PM

Redleg, if you're a farmer than you know that agricultural work has the highest rate of injuries, and third shift work is next highest. I doubt that's coincidence, and that's among adults who aren't going through the crazy change in sleep that teens are going through.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 5:07 PM

Why change school hours. Make the parents adjust and enforce little Johnny's sleepy-bye time. Everyone has 24 hours no more no less. If your not smart enough to get your required sleep, don't mess it up for everybody. Farmers don't want to hear it. It is just another excuse of why Johnny can't learn. Its not the teachers, now its sleep deprivation. Give Me a Break. Kudo's to Rootstown Board!

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 1:46 PM

As a working parent myself I can understand the concern, however the results other schools have had when they made a simple adjustment to the schedule is impressive. I would gladly be inconvenienced if it meant healthier children. Rootstown's problems are deeper than this decision, they are stuck in an archaic mind-set. Also it is troubling how the board made this decision with very little public discussion, but that seems to be how they make most of their decisions.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 1:39 PM

Concerned Parent - read the article. You can't make teens go to bed earlier when their brains aren't ready yet. That's what this is about - the changes that happen during puberty. Young children can go to bed earlier and get up earlier, that's why it makes sense to have elementary start first. And I'm just glad I'm not a taxpayer in Rootstown - read the article and then read between the lines - I'd be pretty mad if my tax money had to pay for lawyers to defend a board that broke sunshine laws. Look at Field - they got a warning letter from the Prosecutor's office. What's up with some of the Portage County boards? They should all resign.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 12:41 PM

This is just to help working parents. Your children should be in the habit of going to bed earlyer. We've done this and its made a big improvement. The younger children need more sleep, just depends on who's study you believe.

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 7:26 AM

It's really a shame that the officials at Rootstown Schools lack the vision to provide real leadership. The lack of progressive thought there is why their enrollment continues to suffer while the population of that township increases. Unless there are changes made, the current trend of Rootstown families sending their kids to other schools grow.