Letter: Barrington's new 'early start time' initiative

Posted 10/8/19

To the editor:

The new school year has arrived, and the rubber has hit the road in terms of Barrington's early start time initiative.  

Wait…it’s a later start you say? That …

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Letter: Barrington's new 'early start time' initiative

Posted

To the editor:

The new school year has arrived, and the rubber has hit the road in terms of Barrington's early start time initiative.  

Wait…it’s a later start you say? That might be true for half of the students, but elementary students are starting school earlier than ever.

In an absurd bit of lexical ambiguity, the district is bending over backwards to congratulate itself that no K-5 bus run begins before 7 a.m. Except, as Mr. Fiore recently pointed out, the district's handbook requires students to be at the bus stop 10 minutes early. What the district should be more plainly saying is: It is the policy of Barrington Public Schools that K-5 students on 11 of the 13 elementary bus runs to be at their bus stops before 7 a.m.! That would be 5-to-6-year-old kids leaving home as early as 6:45 for a bus ride that doesn't allow them into school until 7:45 a.m!

Note: Most bus runs will start before sunrise from Oct. 20 through Nov. 2, when Daylight Savings' chronological gymnastics provides a reprieve. Pre-sunrise bus runs resume Dec. 12 – Jan. 30.

Logistics aside, I'd like to share the impact on my family.  

With a change this divisive…for every story like mine, for someone else it is going swimmingly. But that doesn't mean these negative experiences, which may not be represented in any measurable metric, should be discounted. 

Quite simply, the change is an unmitigated disaster. Initially, my three K-5 students attempted to wake to a cacophony of alarm clocks at 6 a.m. For my HMS student, that meant getting up 2 hours earlier than last year.  We tried to extend their sleep until 6:15 or even 6:30. The tradeoff was the remaining 30 minutes before our 7:06 a.m. bus were filled with urgency, grumbling and arguing in a frantic attempt to be out the door with a modicum of nutrition and personal hygiene. The escalating stress of that mad dash did not set anyone up for a successful day and despite the adrenaline rush, the bus stop was more often populated by child zombies marking time than smiling kids excited for a day of learning. I've heard more "I don't want to go to school" comments in the first four weeks than all of last year. It breaks my heart to see that light and enthusiasm for learning being extinguished due to their exhaustion.

We've finally "waved the white flag" and are driving them to school (sorry carbon footprint) to allow them the opportunity to get something remotely close to their medically necessary sleep—sleep the school committee is robbing them of. 

Our first-in-the-morning bus stop began with eight children (at least 12 are assigned to the stop), but now only three appear to board on a regular basis. So glad that my taxes are contributing to a school service that only 25 percent can use.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the change is that no one—not the school committee nor the administration—has bothered to explain to the elementary students why their sleep is less important than teenager's sleep. 

And please don't foist this responsibility on the teachers.  

The committee and administration need to get out of the echo chamber pretending that the change is all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns, dismissive of any attempts to show how this harms students. I challenge the committee members to face the elementary students. Field those kids' questions and tell them why they are the proverbial red-headed stepchild in this sleep discussion. In short, show them that all kids in the district matter, not just your own teenagers.

Jason Leigh

Barrington

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