New school start time recommended at Hampton

Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Hampton high school students may be getting some extra sleep next school year if a recent recommendation from the School Start Time Committee is approved, per a presentation at the Hampton Township School District school board meeting on Nov. 4.

Dr. Michael Loughead, superintendent for Hampton, along with other School Start Time Committee members presented the suggested scenario of Middle School beginning at 7:50 a.m. with dismissal at 2:40 p.m.; high school beginning at 8:20 a.m. to 3:01 p.m.; and elementary from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Research shows that nine hours of sleep is recommended for students, especially in high school. The goal is to achieve a later start time for high school students, which is recommended at 8:30 a.m.

These recommendations come from several organizations including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, American Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the committee presenters. An advisory committee from the Joint State Government Commission also supports this start time or even later, according to the presentation.

Currently the high school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:19 p.m.; middle school, 7:55 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.; and elementary from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

The recommendation, termed “Secondary Switch,” also provides minimal impact on middle school, has the least impact on athletic and extracurricular activities, and has minimal impact on bus transportation.

The committee has been spending the past two years deliberating whether a delayed school start time was feasible and studying several possible scenarios, said Loughead.

“This is one complex issue with layer upon layer of challenges,” he said.

During an October update on the subject, Loughead said they surveyed students at Hampton showing high schoolers do not get enough recommended sleep. Middle school students, especially those in sixth and seventh grades, are sufficiently rested.

Scientific evidence shows that insufficient sleep harms student health, safety and academic performance, according to the committee presentation last week.

Loughead said the committee extensively researched different options and took time to study the idea before making the recommendation.

“We certainly recognize that something like this is a significant change,” he said.

The school start time committee provided tentative solutions to several challenges, including the YMCA Before and After School program would be relocated from the middle school to Central Elementary. Loughead said this actually might be a better fit for the younger students who attend.

There may be some challenges for a few teachers who now travel between the middle and high schools, but he said they can consider staffing additional half- or part-time teachers. He expects that change and associated costs to be minimal.

And this also still maintains a three-tiered transportation system. Any congestion will be managed via manual traffic control, particularly at the secondary campus. Also, Loughead said the school resource officer is available for assistance with traffic.

Also, with Hampton as a smaller school district they are able to keep quality and efficient school bus routes, said Loughead.

Key stakeholders have also given positive response, according to the presentation.

The school district is in the process of sending out a community survey until Nov. 18. And several Superintendent Coffee events will welcome feedback and discussion. These are scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m., Nov. 26 at Central Elementary, Dec. 3 at the middle school and Dec. 11 at the high school.

Feedback from these will be shared with the school start time committee.

A formal recommendation is planned for the Jan. 6 school board work session meeting to be held at the middle school library. A vote is expected at the Jan. 13 school board voting meeting.

Loughead said the school committee feels positive about this recommendation as it’s good for the students.

“Research and studies both say this is a very good thing for students,” said Loughead. “We feel very good about this.”

Jill Hamlin, school board member who worked with the school start time committee, said the group worked really hard.

“Everybody had to give a little bit,” she said.