Letter: If Headmaster Believes Science on Start Time, He Should Not Recommend 8:15am Start

Letter to the editor submitted by Jonathan Perloe, May 17, 2018

To the editor, Greenwich Free Press:

In his letter about later school start times (Greenwich Free Press, May 15, 2018) Greenwich High School Headmaster Chris Winters starts by saying he accepts the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics to start school no earlier than 8:30am and that he does not “challenge the science.” But then he accuses advocates of later start times of having a “political agenda” for opposing attempts to rollback start times.

Rather than ascribing ulterior motives for parents adhering to the recommendation to start high school no earlier than 8:30am by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the CDC, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Mr. Winters might consider that these parents just want to protect the “overall health and well-being” of their children, the very reason he cites for the change to start times.

If Mr. Winters doesn’t want to call the science into question, he shouldn’t recommend an 8:15am start time. What’s clear is that he is bowing to pressure from a minority of parents who are putting the interest of athletes ahead of the general student population.

How else to explain his recommendation to shorten the school day by 15 minutes to restore 138 hours of annual instructional time for athletes (using the statistics in his letter, assuming athletes participate all three seasons) that shaves off more than 100,000 hours of instructional time for the entire student body (the full year impact of a shorter school day)? And why is this focus on lost instructional time limited to athletes? If lost time in the classroom “disadvantages” students and adds “stress” to their routine, why isn’t there a similar concern for students who miss instructional time for non-athletic activities such as band, chorus and club activities?

It’s quite difficult to believe that Mr. Winters further bases his proposal on feedback from students, a minority of whom expressed negative impacts of later start times. When it comes to assessing health benefits and consequences of school policy, I believe we should defer to evidence-based research from medical experts, not teenagers’ opinions (which has nothing to do with listening to our children, which we should).

The Board of Ed and Superintendent Dr. Gildea are equally culpable in this attack on fact-based policymaking. In a clear sign that they question the scientific evidence of numerous medical experts, they commissioned (at taxpayer expense) their own study to measure the benefits of later start times in Greenwich. It’s disappointing that the BoE believes it can conduct a “rigorous impact analysis” to measure the benefits of later start times with no purpose other than to question numerous scientific studies that have incontrovertibly documented far-ranging educational and health benefits.

It’s a sad day when the people entrusted to educate our children question scientific findings from experts and use faulty logic to support policies designed to accommodate the parents of a minority of students.

Jonathan Perloe

Notes on my Calculation:
Hours of missed class by athletes (per Winters’ data in letter)
(3,930-1,180) * 3 seasons / 60 minutes = 137.5 hrs

Minutes of missed class by entire student body
2,600 students * 0.25 hrs/day * 180 days/school year = 117,000 hrs

See also:

GHS Headmaster: Consider Common Sense Compromise for School Start and End Time


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