Vote for later school hours in West Hartford tabled

WEST HARTFORD - The town is considering a move to push back the daily start of school.

The Board of Education held a packed meeting Tuesday evening at Town Hall to discuss the topic.

A vote was expected by many, but board members decided to table it because of the "high emotions."

Some people said that was a good move, but others said they wanted to just get it over with.

The meeting room reached its full capacity. Some people even sat on the floor as they were eager to share their opposition or support.

Before public comment was allowed, now-former Chairperson Cheryl Greenberg apologized to the public after heated emails about later start times she sent to Republican board members and a longtime friend were obtained by the Hartford Courant.

"I was trying to gather information but for those who see any communication regarding emails to the board as inappropriate, I take full responsibility," said Greenberg.

In one of those emails, Greenberg mocked a message she received from a medical assistant who was against later start times.

That medical assistant was Amy Furstein who openly expressed her anger at the podium.

"If she’s going to judge people and their employment, she should really take a hard look at herself. The way that they belittled me and mocked me was absolutely disrespectful," said Furstein of West Hartford.

Furstein said later start times would not prepare teens and young adults for the real world.

"We’ve been taught our whole lives that you have to wake up when you’re told to wake up. It’s not really realistic for the working world. It’s not realistic for these kids to be catered to. When you grow up, you’re not catered to according to scientific research," added Furstein.

Under the proposal, high schools would start at 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m., middle school would be from 7:40 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and elementary school would be from 8:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m.

The main purpose of later start times is to allow students to sleep in a little bit, so they can have a more productive day.

Hall High School students like Emma Nordquist is against the change.

"I’m on the swim team and that would mean we either have no swim team or we’d have to get to school early because our practices would have to be at three and school to end later so that would affect me academically because I’d have to catch up on work from the classes that I’d miss," said Nordquist.

While most were opposed to the idea, one mother and clinical psychologist was in support of it.

"Sleep deprivation, epidemic rates of anxiety and depression for adolescence and young adults and teens that are being pushed to the brink of despair are overloaded by pressures and adults and society placing them to excel in multiple arenas," said Dr. Kelly Webber of West Hartford.

Board members did not say if or when there would be another meeting.