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Naugatuck considering later school start times so students can get more sleep

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NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck schools may be looking at opening a little later to give students extra shut eye.

A special committee created by the Naugatuck Board of Education is considering starting school later for middle and high school students, which could impact all schools in the district.

The proposed school hour change is:

  • Intermediate School: 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • Middle and High Schools: 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Elementary Schools: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

At a meeting Wednesday night, committee members opened the doors of Naugatuck High School to students, parents and staff, to discuss the proposal.

It started with an hour-long presentation by of school start time committee Chairman Glenn Connan.

“We have kids right now that are up at 5:30 to get on buses at 6:30 to be at school for 7:30,” Connan said. “If you’re up at 5:30 a.m. as an adolescent, that’s equivalent to being up at 2:30 a.m. as an adult.”

Connan feels starting school later will serve as a great improvement for students.

“Grades are gonna improve, test scores are gonna improve, there’s gonna be less absenteeism, there’s gonna be less tardiness,” he said.

The idea stemmed from several studies which say teenagers need more sleep and don’t perform well in the early morning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, five out of every six middle and high schools start class before 8:30 a.m., something health experts say could lead to sleep deprivation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending school start later so kids can get at least 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

The idea to change school times in Naugatuck has been facing pushback; about 200 people showed up to Wednesday’s meeting, many raising concerns.

City Hill Middle School Student Faith Decrescenzo even created a petition against the change.

“I don’t want it and neither do my fellow classmates.” She said. “It will disrupt our curricular activities and gives us time to study and do homework and things like that.”

She said starting school late does not prepare students for the real world as jobs require early arrival.

Some other concerns brought up were the impact on athletic programs, with rumors spreading the change in hours would mean cutting freshman sports.

“There is absolutely zero truth to that rumor,” Connan said. “Freshman sports aren’t getting eliminated.”

The impact to sports is a work in progress, and meetings are in the works with other schools’ athletic departments.

As far as any additional costs, Connan says this proposal would add five new school buses, coming in at a price tag of about $272,000. That means a $0.18 change to the mill rate.

The extra cost to taxpayers is a concern parents brought up at the meeting.

The change to transportation times means bus pickups would begin at 7:25 a.m. instead of 6:25 a.m.

More bus runs would be added to some routes, decreasing the average time students spend on the bus.

This is a reason Naugatuck High School Junior Carol Annglastone wants the change. She says it will keep her from waking up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school.

“It will help out me so I’m like not so exhausted in the morning,” she said. “It will help out tardiness and other kids who get depressed because they don’t have enough sleep.”

This is not a done deal, according to Connan, who says the plan is to survey parents, faculty, and students beginning Friday. The committee will take back concerns raised tonight and post them to the school district website. The group will meet to discuss the proposal further and a possible vote is planned for the next board of education meeting in December.

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