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Board discusses start times

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | MAY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City School Board proposed a change in the school day for the 2015-16 school year, suggesting classes should start earlier.

The proposal suggests elementary schools should start at 8:30 a.m., with the junior highs and high schools starting at 7:45 a.m. Elementary-school students would spend half an hour longer in school, while other students would spend the same amount of time.

Though this would allow students to have an early release on Thursdays, almost everyone at the meeting was against the new hours despite the possible positives from the change.

“From the calendar perspective, it releases us earlier at the end of the school year by five days,” Superintendent Stephen Murley said. “It provides over 50 instructional hours.”

School Board member Patti Fields noted that her greatest concern is extracurricular activities.

“Moving this forward, I would like us to have measurement and at least monitor those concerns,” she said. “Many secondary educators are concerned. We don’t want to undo some of the good things we are hoping to do to connect students to their schools.”

Murley admitted that because of the lack of practice facilities, practice times would be significantly longer and might even end after 10 p.m.

Jake Anderson, a student at West High who is also a part of the extracurricular activity Fellowship of Christian Athletes, said waking up is already a struggle for him.

“We have to get up early for [Fellowship of Christian athletes],” Anderson said. “If we would have to get up even earlier, it would be extremely hard, especially for us teenagers who need multiple alarms.”

Focusing in school is also a major issue, he said.

“In first period right now, it’s hard for me to focus, and it’s hard for me to get anything out of it,” he said. “If we made it [start] even earlier, it would be [even harder] to focus.”

Despite the concerns regarding extracurricular activities, parents were more concerned about the health and well-being of their children.

Parent Martin Schluder said starting school too early would be detrimental to teenagers’ health.

“There are literally scores of studies that show how detrimental it is for teens to start school early,” he said. “Teenagers who start school later are healthier, do better with sports, and do better in their classes.”

Rather than starting school early, Schluder had a different suggestion.

“[The School Board] should completely reverse this and start thinking of having teens start later, after 8:30 a.m.”

West High student Nikki Alden agreed with Schluder’s suggestion.

“… Instead of moving the time back, I would suggest you move it forward to increase students’ chances at success,” she said.

Miriam Gardner, a pediatrician in Iowa City, said studies have shown how necessary sleep is for adolescents.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics came together and studied a number of different studies and basically supported the efforts of school boards to optimize sleep,” she said.

While student and parent reaction to the event was negative at the meeting, a binding decision hasn’t been made, and the district calendar will be decided at a future meeting.


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