At last night’s joint MVMMS/MHS PTO meeting, Melrose parent, family physician, and Board of Health member Frank Brincheiro brought a concept before the group called “Start School Later.” (Link to national chapter here: http://www.startschoollater.net/.) He explained that teen sleep deprivation (regular sleep length of less than 8.5-9.5 hours/night), caused by melatonin secretions in the brain happening around 11 p.m. for teens (which bring on the urge to sleep) combined with early school start times, leads to consequences like increased risk of car accidents, weight gain, and depression. More sleep is shown to improve academic performance and result in an overall improved quality of life. Evidence was presented from the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://tinyurl.com/k2g9d4a) and the National Sleep Foundation (http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/backgrounder-later-school-start-times). He also stated that starting the school day at 8:30 a.m. is considered appropriate and beneficial. Obstacles in other communities have included busing (which Melrose does not do), resistance to change, and lack of public education. Dr. Brincheiro indicated that a number of districts in the state have shifted times successfully, (including Arlington, Needham, Hingham, Marblehead, Sharon, Easton, and Marlborough) and that after-school activities would be shifted later without consequence (i.e. competing teams could adapt to new contest times). The Melrose Board of Health is expected to approve this proposal today, at which time it would come to the district for consideration including discussion with staff members. Dr. Brincheiro is advocating for the change to be enacted this fall.
Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.