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Starting School Classes Later

Some Wheeling Park High School students have to catch the bus at 5:45 a.m. every weekday. Classes at WPHS start at 7:25 a.m.

That is too early. Period.

Ohio County Board of Education members are considering changes in the schedule. They should make every effort to do so.

There are challenges in making such a change, as school Superintendent Kimberly Miller explained to board members last week. “We are trying to work out all the things that could go wrong before we bring it up to the board,” she added.

Many people take it for granted that public schools’ top priority is doing the best they can to help children learn. It is not, of course. Operating within a budget has to be the overriding concern.

That may be one reason for the current Ohio County Schools’ schedule. As Miller noted, it is possible beginning WPHS classes later would require purchasing additional school buses.

Doing that may be worth the cost. More and more researchers are concluding that children, including high school students, do not learn well early in the morning. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association recommend that middle- and high-school students start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says 8 a.m. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has weighed in (also for 8:30 a.m.). Education reseachers come to similar conclusions.

Understand, this is not a matter of whether children should be coddled. Lots of adults have to be at work earlier than 8:30 a.m.

But if the goal is to educate as effectively as possible, later school start times may be desirable.

Ohio County Schools officials should obtain as much solid information on the matter as possible — both in terms of educational benefits and various challenges that would have to be overcome to change schedules.

Yes, they do have to watch the budget. But it may be that spending additional money to start classes later has more benefits than some other expenditures being made or considered in Ohio County Schools.

If so, the schedules ought to be changed. What is it we hear so often? Oh, yes: It’s all about the kids.

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