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Late-Start Efforts Continue in Dearborn Schools

A program that delays the high school start time by one hour that received little interest last year will be offered once again.

Students attending any of the Dearborn Public Schools high schools that are interested in beginning their classes an hour later will have an opportunity to so for the school year beginning in September 2013—if enough students are interested.

The late-start program, which was the subject of an 18-month study by a special committee of educators and parents, was offered last year, but failed to generate enough interest to make the program worthwhile.

But allegations by parents that too many students were excluded from participation in the program—and a petition signed by parents demanding re-examine the program, led to the program being moved up from the back burner.

Helena Thornton, a parent or a Dearborn High graduate and a student starting at DHS in the fall, has advocated for the program. According to Thonton, during committee discussions about two years ago, few barriers were identified that would preclude such a program from being a success.

“There were no obstacles whatsoever that (district officials) talked about,” she said. Thornton also said the district is underestimating student interest in the program.

According to district figures, only 24 out of 2,094 eligible students expressed interest in starting school later in 2012-13. The program excluded those that were required to make up credits in an after-school program, and many students that could not provide their own transportation.

According to district spokesman David Mustonen, any program implemented by the district could not interfere with established transportation routes, because of additional costs the district could not incur at this time.

“If there’s enough interest next time," he said, "we’ll implement it."

A Second Try

Currently, Dearborn high school students begin class at 7:20 a.m. and are released at 2:15 p.m.; middle school students start at 8 a.m. and leave at 2:55 p.m.; and elementary school students attend class from 8:40 a.m. until 3:35 p.m.

According to a proposal organized by the district, students electing the late start option for the 2013-14 would start school at 8:25 a.m. and leave at 3:20 p.m. The make-up credit and transportation requirement are still in force; students will also have to be in good academic standing, refrain from taking part in athletics that begin prior to 3:20 p.m, and commit to the schedule for the entire year.

The district formed a committee in 2009 that explored the option of shifting high school start times after several parent expressed interest in such a change. The committee recommended essentially switching start times for high school and middle school students; the middle school students would arrive at school earlier than their high school counterparts.

However, in a Jan. 11 email addressed to Thornton, Superintendent Brian Whiston said there was near universal opposition at the elementary- and middle-school levels, and that changing times at those levels would be necessary to maintain its present bus schedule.

But Whiston maintained that if enough high school students are interested in late start, they will run the program.

"lf we are able to run even one class at one high school, we will make the later start time available," he wrote in the letter. "We will continue to offer the option for the 2013-14 school year and should more students and parents select the alternative schedule we will implement the program."

Petition drive

A petition circulated by late start supporters was introduced in December, and as of the end of January, received 108 signatures.

Supporters of the measure cited university research that indicates high school students lose a REM cycle of sleep if they get up for school at the present time. Supporters also said they believed later start times would give better-rested students an opportunity to

Board president Pamela Anderson said at the Jan. 14 meeting board members were trying to make options available to high school students.

“I don’t think anyone disagrees with the research about the high school students needing more rest; we’ve all had teenagers and we know that first hand,” she said. “But there’s 18,000 students and we do understand that by shifting time starts, it would put younger children out on the streets at an earlier time, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

“I’m glad we are able to offer that option,” she said. “If we have a large enough response, we will react to it.”

AbuHak February 19, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Without a doubt high school starts too early in the morning, but having alternative start times will cost the district more money no matter what Whiston says. It is still the parent's responsibility to ensure their child gets enough sleep each day. Many Dearborn parents now let their children work past 10:00 pm on school nights and hang out until midnight. Will starting school and hour later have an impact on these people, I think not. Parents must take the responsibility in this matter.
laplateau February 19, 2013 at 08:04 PM
When I was going to high school, the school population was getting higher and they created a zero hour...I think it started around 7:30 a.m. I had no problem making it, but then again my parents made sure I did.
cmg February 19, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Agreed, I also had zero hour. You have to get up for work as you get older, might as well get used to it. My son is in 8th grade and says he has no problem with going to school earlier. Maybe too many parents LET their kids be lazy.
Charlie Terry February 20, 2013 at 12:20 AM
I don`t care what research says about REM-type sleep. People succeed or fail in life based on their mastery of time management. These idiot kids and their parents must realize this if their kids are to succeed in the globalized economy of the 21st century. Keep the start times the same, please. Can`t manage time? Don`t get enough sleep because of it? Tough. Learn now.
Maribel Ibrahim February 20, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Posing the question of whether we should start school later is much like asking a child if they would prefer ice cream or broccoli for dinner. Of course, the child will prefer ice cream. While they won't die from eating it a few times, over time, the damage of only eating ice cream will take it's toll. Early school start times are a new phenomena which started in the late 60s in response to centralized schooling and busing cost savings. There wasn't even sleep research back then because we never expected anyone to rise early and keep going until 12am or later like we do in this 24/7 society we live in today. This is why I created a website, called www.StartSchoolLater.net, which led to the formation of a national non-profit organization, Start School Later, Inc. There are many myths about this issue, especially that the problem of sleep deprivation in teens is more the result of bad, permissive parenting or unmotivated students. Read here to understand what the real issues are: http://www.startschoollater.net/myths-and-misconceptions.html When you investigate this issue and understand that we are asking our children to forsake the 9 hours of sleep they need, travel in pre-dawn darkness on unsafe routes to school and impair disadvantaged students even more than their privileged peers, it is negligible to insist on early school starts. Visit http://www.startschoollater.net/mi---dearborn.html to get involved in Dearborn.
Charlie Terry February 20, 2013 at 12:20 PM
While I won`t get into a message board debate (they`re childish and petty) about later school start times, I will agree with you about living in a 24/7 society, and world, for that matter. That`s why it`s imperitive that kids learn how to manage time at a young age. Therefore, keep the start times the same and they still get out early in the afternoon. If I were still a kid, I would take that tradeoff.
AXXEL KNUTSON February 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Given the pathetic test scores, classes should start at 7AM and last until 6:00 PM with homework being done at school. And forget about summer break. Henry Ford, MI has to get with it. And forget spending money on football until these scores dramatically improve. And yes, the name "Dearborn" is idiotic.
AXXEL KNUTSON February 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM
...and if the current teachers don't like it...I think there are replacement available.
Helena Thornton February 22, 2013 at 02:02 PM
This is a performance issue. The gravity of sleep relates to performance, not convenience. The NYTimes cites a study in the below link 2 weeks ago where male basketball players improved their free throw and 3 point shots by 9% after getting 10 hours of sleep. The fact is in teenagers, melatonin does not start production until about 11 pm and they need 9 or more hours of sleep. I have collected data from students that show less than 5% get 8-9 hours of sleep. Further, the Dearborn Public Schools' report card is appalling. According to the Dearborn Press and Guide, January 28th, 2012 - 61% of DPS graduates who attend HFCC need remedial reading, 66% need remedial writing! To start high school later would help ALL the students. As of June 2012, DPS average MME score is lower than the State average. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html?ref=sleep Here is the link to the petition. http://signon.org/sign/dearborn-public-schools?source=c.em.mt&r_by=5890917 The proposal that the board finally put forth was completely unworkable. It was chaos requiring students and teachers to volunteer! The students by the way had to be exceptional, uninvolved students. Further, 32% of students who are 9th graders were excluded. 35% of transportation users were excluded. 27% of athletic students were excluded.
Helena Thornton February 22, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Here is the link to the petition. http://signon.org/sign/dearborn-public-schools?source=c.em.mt&r_by=5890917
cmg May 15, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Problem with your idea AXXEL (stupid name as well) is that there are some kids that carry 4.0, manage their time, have parents that care for them and pay attention. They know wahat is right and wrong. Why should they have to go to school from 7:00 am - 6:00pm because of kids that may, for whatever reason, not be as smart as them?
AXXEL KNUTSON May 15, 2013 at 05:55 PM
"cmg" is a pretty stupid name and you have such little respect for yourself, you don't even capitalize it. Please talk a long walk off a short pier. I don't recall people from Henry Ford, MI being rude. I will assume you are the exception.
cmg May 15, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I'm not from Henry Ford, MI, I'm from DEARBORN. And it's not capitalized because capitalization is considered yelling. I'm not going to honor anything else you have to say with a comment. I've read your comments on other posts and I find you to be a highly uneducated person who has nothing to do all day but fight and degrade others. Please have a nice life. It's because of you then I am officially off of Patch. It's lowlife like you that give DEARBORN a bad name.
AXXEL KNUTSON May 15, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Funny guy.

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