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Other Northampton school issues matter more than start time

To the editor:

Like some politicians, I have flip-flopped on an issue. That issue is school start times.

Initially, I was in favor of later start times, but that was before our eldest was actually at Northampton High School. While I don’t dispute that more sleep is better than less sleep, I now question the wisdom of shifting to a later start time because that also means a later dismissal time. Some teenagers may function better later in the day, but that burden shouldn’t be borne by younger students who actually function better earlier in the day.

The parents and students I have spoken with are very concerned as to how the later start time and later dismissal times would affect both academics and extra-curriculars at the high school. As it is now, Northampton High students are able to go to teachers for extra help after school before their activities start. If NHS changes to a later start time, that critical learning window would be lost.

Also, if NHS has to travel for a game or meet, students may have to leave school early to get there on time. Students should not have to miss school in order to compete. Other districts can’t be expected to accommodate one school’s change. This was one of the reasons Amherst decided last month not to proceed with a later start time, and my hope is that Northampton follows suit.

While I applaud the idea of lengthening the school day for elementary schools, the proposed dismissal time for elementary students of 3:25 p.m. is far too late.

It is unfortunate that due to budget issues it seems as though bus schedules are dictating start times instead of vice versa. My sense is that the start time is not the most critical challenge facing our public schools. Until school staff and libraries are funded at optimal levels, the issue of changing start times should be put aside.

I encourage students and families of all grade levels to attend the forum Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Northampton High auditorium.

Cindy Mahoney


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