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Garden City to students: Don’t reset those alarm clocks yet

The Garden City school district has deferred decisions

The Garden City school district has deferred decisions on a plan to delay the start time for its high school students. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Officials in Garden City have hit the snooze button on plans to let their high schoolers sleep in.

For the past year, a school district committee has studied whether to begin classes at the high school at 8:30 a.m., a 50-minute delay. Officials had cited research supporting increased academic benefits for teenagers who get more sleep.

But school board members on Wednesday night, acting on the superintendent’s recommendation, deferred decisions on the proposal for at least a year amid concerns about the implication for middle school students, officials said.

To save on transportation costs, the original proposal called for flipping the start times of the middle and high schools. But starting middle school at 7:40 a.m. created a 40-minute gap between the end of their school day and the start of after-school sports, the timing of which is regulated by New York State.

School officials will now review other ways to delay the school day without disrupting the current middle school schedule, interim Superintendent Alan Groveman said Thursday.

“In doing this, we noted a discomfort on the part of the middle school staff and administration, as well as central office, about the nature of the supervision that would be involved at the middle school,” Groveman said. “We were extremely concerned [about] allowing students, approximately ages 12 to 14, free access to leave and come back.”

Beyond that, he said, were concerns that middle-school students, a population that also includes teenagers, would lose the benefit of a later start to their day.

Transportation issues are a big part of the dilemma, Groveman said. Districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties generally stagger start times for elementary, middle and high schools, so that a smaller districtwide transportation fleet is needed.

“It’s a challenge for Long Island because of our transportation issues,” Groveman said. “What we do in most districts on the Island — the buses do double or triple duty.”

Other Long Island districts have instituted later starts. In 2010, the Roslyn school district delayed the high school start by 40 minutes but moved the middle-school day 20 minutes earlier.

In September, the Sag Harbor school district delayed the middle/high school start by 15 minutes and also pushed back the start of the elementary school day by 5 minutes. School officials, in an August letter to parents, cited the potential for a “wide range of health, wellness, and academic performance benefits to later school start times.”

Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, the Herricks schools moved the start of the school day from 7:30 to 8 a.m., after a year of deliberations that included negotiations with the teachers association.

“There’s no easy way to do this,” Herricks Superintendent Fino Celano said. “It’s very complicated.”

The shift has led to fewer instances of lateness to first period, Celano said. The change has “really alleviated a lot of stress among the students,” he said. “They’re coming in not as tired, because they’re getting that half-hour of sleep.”

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