South Portland school days to start, end later

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board unanimously voted Monday to push back the daily start times next fall by at least a half hour for most students. 

Under the new times for the 2017-18 school year, classes at South Portland High School will start 40 minutes later, at 8:10 a.m.; Mahoney and Memorial middle schools will start 35 minutes later, at 8:30 a.m., and the city’s five elementary schools will start five minutes later, at 9:05 a.m. 

At the end of the day, elementary schools will release students five minutes later, at 3:05 p.m.; the middle schools will end classes a half hour later, at 2:45 p.m., and the high school will end the day 35 minutes later, at 2:25 p.m.

The impetus to re-evaluate the district’s start times centered on concerns for student health and well-being, which can be traced back to the number of hours they spend sleeping. 

Too many students are getting less than 8 1/2-9 1/2 hours of sleep a night, according to a Dec. 9 memo from Superintendent of Schools Ken Kunin.

“Research clearly demonstrates that more sleep leads to better health, mental health and academic outcomes,” Kunin wrote. “We want these outcomes for our students.”

The hope with the later start times is that pre-teen and teenage students will actually use the extra time to sleep.

In July, the School Board sanctioned an ad hoc committee to consider start time alternatives, and in December the committee came forward with the time proposal that was approved Monday night. 

Its mission accomplished, the ad hoc committee will now be dissolved, Kunin said at the Jan. 9 meeting. Administrators will be responsible for following up with the board about how the new times work out. 

“You should expect us to be coming back next year, more to the second half of the year, and say, ‘OK, this is what we’ve learned so far, and these are some of the impacts, this is how smoothly it’s going operationally,'” Kunin told board members. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter:@AcquistoA

The South Portland School Board voted Monday to change the daily start and end times for classes in the 2017-2018  school year. Included will be a change at South Portland High School, where classes will begin 40 minutes later at 8:10 a.m. 

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.