Emmaus High School begins at 7:23am each morning– one of the earliest high school start times in the Lehigh Valley. Many of our students get up as early as 5am in order to dress, eat breakfast, and make it to their school bus on time.
Many school districts in Pennsylvania and around the country are rethinking such early starts for high school students. Later start times have proven to have a variety of benefits. And the American Academy of Pediatrics has for years now recommended that no middle or high school start before 8:30am in order to promote the health, safety, and academic success of students.
At the same time, many people have questions and concerns about the possibility of a later start time at Emmaus High School and our middle schools. What would this mean for the school day at the elementary schools? For busing routes and schedules? For athletics and extracurricular programs? For students who attend programs at LCTI and the IU? For working parents and childcare facilities?
The East Penn school board will be having an initial discussion about school start times at our meeting this coming Monday, February 11th. The goal is to have the district administration look hard at how we might improve the school schedules in the district. I hope our discussion will open space for parents, students, teachers, coaches and administrators to engage in a longer dialogue over the coming weeks and months about this important issue.
I’ve been educating myself about school start times for over two years now, listening to students and parents, talking to experts, reading scientific studies on the topic, and looking at best practices that have worked for other districts. I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned in a series of blog posts in the coming months. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I hope to contribute in at least in a small way to a better understanding of possibilities and possible pitfalls of rethinking when our schools start and end each day.
Please share your own questions (and hopes) about school start times in the comments below. And of course you are always welcome to share your thoughts with the entire board during the public comment period at the beginning of each school board meeting.