Letter to BOE: Support for later start times is gaining nationally. Ridgefield started chapter of Start Schools Later.

Letter to the Board of Education from Wheatleigh Dunham, Sept. 21, 2016

Dear Greenwich Board of Education,

In case you did not see this earlier, Ridgefield has now started a chapter of Start Schools Later. Parents and community members are active and meeting.

Here attached is a memorandum from January of this year written by Dr. Karen Baldwin, Superintendent to the Ridgefield Board of Education.

It contains many key research studies and other informative links I hope you take the time to read if you have you have not done so already in the course of  your examination of the issues.

As I have stated before, support for later start times is gaining nationally.  I firmly believe that this will soon happen in other surrounding communities.  I would like to see Greenwich lead as a pioneer, and become an educational beacon district like Wilton was 13 years ago – not grudgingly lagging behind perpetuating start times that harm adolescents as so many experts tell us over and over.

Think back to when New York City bar and restaurant owners bitterly warned that anti-smoking laws wold “kill” their business. Well, after enacted business never was better. Tourism, nightlife and restaurants flourish in New York City. Read this New York Times from 2004 with details. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/29/nyregion/bars-and-restaurants-thrive-amid-smoking-ban-study-says.html?_r=0

Similarly, later start times will not “kill” after school sports as critics warn. This is unfounded smoke and mirrors deflecting from the overwhelming evidence that starting school at 7:30 am puts adolescents at known risks and limits academic potential.  All three of my sons are active, outdoor and indoor, year-round athletes two on three varsity teams. We would never do anything to jeopardize these wonderful, rewarding extracurricular activities for our kids but know safety and education come first. Read what research from around the U.S. tells us.  Student athlete injuries drop 68% (Stanford Medical School) and participation goes up.  I’ll take that.

If GHS or Western Middle School for example had a known structural collapse hazard would we discuss solutions for 12 years, hold numerous community meetings, conduct multiple surveys and ignore the best engineers and architects in our community and in the nation?  No! We would fix the problem. Period.  You could not turn a blind eye and vote no to these steps.

Thank you for your consideration.  I ask you to please make a positive change and vote unanimously this week to back later start times in Greenwich.


Wheatleigh Dunham


70 Prospect Street, Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877


DATE: January 11, 2016

TO: Members of the Board of Education

FROM: Dr. Karen Baldwin, Superintendent

RE: Research Related to School Start Times

Selected Research on School Start Times and Adolescent Health

1. Blueprint for Change: Status Update Fairfax County School Board. Children’s National Medical Center. April 23, 2014. http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fairfax/Board.nsf/files/9J8MKE56DE86/$file/Blueprint%20f or%20Change%20Update.pdf

2. Impact of School Start Time on Student Learning. Hanover Research. February 2013 http://www.shorewoodschools.org/uploaded/Family_Resources/general/Impact_of_School_St art_Time.pdf

3. Schools Start Too Early. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2015 http://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/

4. Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study. University of Minnesota, Center for Applied Research and Educational Development. February 2014 http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/162769/Impact%20of%20Later%20Start%20Time%20Final%20Report.p df?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

5. Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation. August, 2014.


6. Early School Start Times: Consensus Statement. National Association of School Nurses and American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014). http://www.pedsnurses.org/d/do/923

7. Is the Drive for Success Making our Children Sick? The New York Times. January 3, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/sunday/is-the-drive-for-success-making-our-children-sick.html

YouTube Video on Sleep Science and Adolescents

1. Teens Need Later School Start Times, Doctors Say. CBS News This Morning.