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Rethink School Starting Times

Early to bed, early to rise may make an adult healthy, wealthy and wise — but what about children? What is the optimum time of the morning for them to begin the learning process in school?

Some school administrators and at least one board of education member in Ohio County seem to think that the earlier, the better. Wheeling Park High School begins its classes at 7:25 a.m., with some students getting on the bus starting at 6 a.m.

That flies in the face of what the science says about the time of the morning children ­ — particularly teenagers ­– learn best. A variety of scientific studies including studies from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Association for Pediatrics favor no schools starting before 8:30 a.m.

Recently, Ohio County Board of Education member Molly Aderholt has been making the case for a later start time.

“The research has indicated there have been significant positive outcomes associated with later start times — and those are improved academic performance, improved mental health, and reductions in absences,” Aderholt said.

One of the hurdles in Ohio County is that the move would cost the district a fair amount of money. Administrators have said they would have to redirect bus routes, purchase additional buses and also hire new drivers.

Along with the potential financial impact, which administrators have said would be at least a half-million dollars, another board of education member, retired teacher Pete Chacalos, opposes a later start time.

Chacalos taught human anatomy at Park for 35 years, and doesn’t think that changing the start time will make any difference for students. He believes a later start time will simply shift the day for teenagers one hour ahead, and after getting a later start the youth actually will get to bed at least an hour later after completing school, work and extracurricular activities.

He also sees challenges with how extracurriculars would be scheduled, and believes pushing school an hour later could impact students’ abilities to work or to help care for their siblings.

Those are points worth discussion, but again, what’s the goal here? Is it one of convenience for adults or one that puts the best interests of students first?

The science is clear; it’s time for Ohio County to seriously address this issue.

School is “all about the kids,” after all — isn’t it?

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