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School Start-Time Debate Making a Return?

At least one parent and one Greenfield School Board member want to revisit changing Greenfield High School's start time more than a year after the board shot down such a move.

Dolores Skowronek acknowledged that Greenfield School Board members were probably tired of her coming back to them to talk about school start times.

But it’s a topic—specifically the high school’s start time of 7:10 a.m.—that Skowronek is passionate about and one she vowed she would not stop addressing until changes were made.

“You have to realize you cannot alter the behavior of the population of high school students that changes every single year,” Skowronek told School Board members and administrators Monday. “You can tell these kids that they need to have more personal responsibility. You can insist that they go to bed earlier. You can insist that they get up and get to school on time.

“But that will have little impact because you have no real control over what these kids or parents do outside of school. If you want to make a difference, you must focus on things that you actually have control over, like the high school start times.”

Skowronek, who is now on the executive board of a national coalition called Start School Later, said she was disturbed by the high school’s grade of 59.6 in student achievement on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction preliminary report card released Monday.

That grade correlates to “meets few expectations,” as defined by the DPI.

Skowronek attributed the low score at least partially to the school’s early start time. She said during the 2011-12 school year, there were 9,671 documented instances of first-hour tardies at the high school.

“That’s 9,671 instances of students missing part of their first-hour class and 9,671 instances where first-hour classes were being disrupted by students,” she said. “Classes like algebra and English, core classes that are essential to student achievement.”

After months of debate, the Greenfield School Board voted not to change the district’s school start times in May 2011, citing the price tag of $208,000 for the new busing routes as the chief concern for not moving forward.

“What’s more important, a cost-saving policy that’s not working or the health, safety and academics of our children?” Skowronek asked.

Neither administrators nor board members could address Skowronek’s concerns directly because the topic was not on the agenda, but board member Cathy Walsh later asked that it be added to a future agenda.

During her brief hiatus from the board, Walsh was on a committee, along with Skowronek, that recommended to the board to change the school’s start times in 2011.

“I think it’s something we can’t ignore … I think we need to keep talking about that,” Walsh said. “Maybe we take a look at busing again and maybe we reduce busing. There could be other avenues if money is the deal, but I think it’s costing us big money.”

Dolores Skowronek October 25, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Young David, your comments implying that our community does not care about the research findings on early start times or adolescent sleep deprivation should upset me – but they don’t. While I am an advocate for later start times, I am also a mom and comments like yours make me sort of sad. Here’s why. The value of empirical evidence, research methodologies, and the critical analysis and application of information are all taught in our Greenfield schools. I know, because my children were taught to understand and value these from their Greenfield teachers. My kids, like many others who were educated in our schools, now have life skills that will enable them to make wise and informed decisions for many years to come. So, I find it sad when a student dismisses the value of good information. By no means does that represent what is taught in our schools or reflect the attitude of every parent and student living in our community.
Todd Wilde October 25, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Robert, all you have to do is observe any high school age students Facebook wall and look at what time posts are made. I start work at 5:00 am ( talk about an early start time right??) and if I look at any teenagersFacebook wall or his friends walls there are posts that were clearly made anywhere from 1 minute ago to 4 hours ago and that's relative to 5:00 am. Teenagers do not have a filter when it comes to social media, you can either directly read what is going on in their households or read between the lines!
Phyllis Payne October 25, 2012 at 02:37 PM
The prefrontal cortex of the brain is still developing in adolescents. This is the first part of the brain impacted by sleep loss. It is also the part of the brain responsible for executive function and decision-making. The research and what I have heard from teachers in districts that have changed their start times shows improvements in student behavior and fewer discipline problems in the schools -- a generally positive atmosphere. One of the teachers specifically mentioned that students were literally smiling, happier and more likely to participate in class.
Chris Kelnhofer October 25, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Whitnall adopted a later starting time this year and i have to say it helps. It's only 30 mins later but I can really notice the difference.
mr.chris a engel February 03, 2013 at 12:49 AM
lets invite the tardy students to transfer to Witnall with no cost to Greenfield

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