Peabody want to start a discussion about school start times

PEABODY — As controversy surrounds a plan for new school start times in Boston, school committee members in Peabody assured parents they’ll get plenty of notice if and when any changes are enacted.

To start the process, Peabody committee members are taking initial steps to study school hours, including the benefits of a later start for high school students, by speaking with an expert.

Dr. Judith Owens is scheduled to meet with the school committee at the end of January.

“She lives in Beverly and is on the staff at Massachusetts General Hospital,” said interim Superintendent Herb Levine. “She is an expert in the research about the benefits of starting school later for high school students.”

Last week, the Boston School Committee approved a policy that would see more high schools start after 8 a.m. and elementary schools end their days before 4 p.m. Wednesday night, about 200 parents, students, and elected officials in Boston asked the committee to rethink its plans for the new start times, arguing it will deprive students of sleep and force families to spend more money on afterschool programs, according to The Boston Globe.

In Peabody, School Committee member Tom Rossignoll suggested the district send out a ConnectEd message to inform parents about the upcoming speaker.

“Not that there’s going to be any changes any time soon, because this is still in its (infancy),” he said. “But one of the things that’s happening now, at least in Boston, is that there are parents (saying they) weren’t informed and (they) are making these changes without our input and it’s upsetting some parents as far as not knowing.”

By letting parents in on the initial stages of the process, Rossignoll said it could help prevent problems down the road.

“This is in no way an indication that there is any change that is going to take place,” said School Committee member Jarrod Hochman. “We want to get as educated as possible on this subject. (Owens) is a pre-eminent source for this subject and we should educate ourselves if we are going to make any kind of decision, one way or another, whether to leave things the way they are or modify things.”

The opening bell at the high school is 7:10 a.m. and dismissal is at 1:50 p.m.

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