School Start Times Stir Controversy

School Start Times Changing During 2019-20 Academic Year

SHS will start at 8:15 a.m. and end at 2:46 p.m. during the 2019-20 academic year

SHS will start at 8:15 a.m. and end at 2:46 p.m. during the 2019-20 academic year

Daniel Todd, Staff Writer

Ever since Gates Middle School made the great switch to the new campus, middle schoolers have been starting school at 7:25 a.m., while high school starts classes at 8:10 a.m. This 45-minute difference could be much smaller if the two schedules were aligned, but traffic concerns two years back caused Gates to start earlier.

For the past two years, a committee led by superintendent Ron Griffin has been researching school start times and considering how to adjust the middle school and high school schedules to be more aligned. In particular, parents of middle school students advocated for starting middle school later. And during the Monday, May 6th, Scituate School Committee meeting, the committee members voted to approve the Start Times Committee recommendations and shift the school start times during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Beginning in the fall, Gates will start at 8:00 a.m., representing a 35-minute shift to a later time. The high school will start five minutes later, beginning at  8:15 a.m. Elementary schools will start at 8:55 a.m., which is also a five-minute change. Under this new plan, middle school and high school students will ride the bus together, creating a two-tiered bus system in Scituate, similar to previous years when the middle school and high school were located on separate campuses.

Middle school students seem to draw the most benefit from the shift in start times, as they will have more time to sleep in the morning. Although next year’s 5-minute change may seem insignificant for high school students, aligning the school schedules may incentivize some high school students to drive their siblings to school.

In addition to later start times for middle and high school students, the School Committee recently voted to change the schedule for teacher professional development, which impacts the weekly routine for high school students. According to SHS principal Rob Wargo, the high school and elementary schools have struggled to find common ground regarding their monthly professional development, which has been scheduled on Wednesday mornings for the past several years. Elementary school teachers prefer a Thursday early-release schedule on district-wide professional development days. Consequently, the School Committee approved an early-release Thursdays schedule for the 2019-2020 academic year. Wargo explained, “The elementary schools would prefer an early release because it works best for getting the teachers all together for their monthly meeting.”

Nevertheless, many high school teachers would prefer to continue the late-start Wednesday model for many reasons; in particular, studies show growing teenagers benefit from additional sleep in the morning, which was one of the arguments for the late start schedule when it was adopted several years ago. 

In response to numerous letters and inquiries from parents, teachers, and high school students, the School Committee will meet on Thursday, June 13th, at  7:00 p.m. in the high school library to continue their discussion regarding next year’s professional development schedule and the weekly late-start or early-release model for high school teacher collaboration.