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School start time discussion in early stages in Peabody

PEABODY — While controversy surrounds a plan for new school start times in Boston, the School Committee here has assured parents they’ll get plenty of notice if any changes are made.

To start the process, committee members are taking steps to study school hours, including the benefits of a later start for high schoolers, by speaking with an expert. Dr. Judith Owens is scheduled to meet with the panel next month.

“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 Committeeman Tom Rossignoll suggested the district tell 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 know, Rossignoll said it could help prevent future problems.

“This is in no way an indication that there is any change that is going to take place,” said School Committeeman 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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