Changing school start times is complicated issue

To the Editor:

In response to your editorial on April 26 on starting school days later, I agree that school days should start later for older students. However, the same research you mention shows younger students perform better with an early start time. One crucial element makes all the difference–puberty, that biological change that affects all children.

Additionally, I found one fault in your article, which is placing blame on “parents [who] do not police children’s bedtimes.” Hormonal changes make it natural for children to stay up and sleep later. Most parents or caregivers can recall seeing this change in their own children. I currently police my elementary-aged children’s bedtimes, but I know there is no way to fight this coming change.

In the last school district, in which my family resided, it has already invested several years of consideration on this topic. I served on one parent, faculty, and wider community committee that recommended both later start times for older students as well as an alternative calendar district-wide, which stretches out the school year by putting longer breaks in between terms and shortening summer vacation.

While a later start time may be another way that our school district could help to “overcome a variety of challenges at home,” it is not one that can happen overnight. I suspect this is why Des Moines schools are delaying their decision on this topic.

Having school start- and end-times vary as children matriculate is advantageous for student achievement, which is the ultimate goal for all schools. However, it has a community-wide impact and may actually pose more challenges for some families.

Again, I agree that our school should consider progressive alternatives. It must start with a parent, faculty, and wider community committee. We need childcare providers, parents and teachers of all age groups, coaches, school administrators, family resource officials, and businesses that employ students after school.

Let me be the first to volunteer.

Ryan Rippentrop

Stay-At-Home-Dad of two

New Webster City resident