Later High School Start Time Initiative: School Council Year-End Report to the South Community

During the 2014-15 school year, the Newton South School Council conducted research and community education in Newton on the feasibility of following the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation to move high school start times to 8:30am or later. The topic emerged from the Council’s multi-year goal to explore ways to improve student health and well being at South.

Council members conducted primary and secondary research to understand the science behind the AAP recommendation as well as to examine the outcomes and benefits of later start within school districts that have already moved to later high school bell times. This included interviews with key personnel in several comparable U.S. school districts and also focused on gathering information about the process these and many Massachusetts districts used to make the change.

In April, School Council organized a well-attended community forum on Later High School Start Times to begin a wider conversation in Newton. The community heard from keynote speaker Dr. Judith Owens of Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Sleep Center as well as presentations from South students and others on the Council. Many thanks to all the South parents—and those from all the other Newton schools at all levels as well—who attended and asked great questions.

The Council worked with NPS Assistant Superintendent Cindy Bergan as she began a feasibility study this spring. Currently, NPS and the School Committee is forming a Later Start Working Group to generate possible scenarios, outline any trade-offs and community impact and report a recommendation to the School Committee.

School Council voted to endorse later high school start times in Newton, expressing strong support for NPS’s work to date on the topic in a letter to the School Committee in May.

The Newton South School Council is an elected, advisory body composed of South parents, teachers, students, and administrators. The Council assists and advises the Principal on matters relating to educational goals and needs of students and other school-wide issues.