School to introduce late-start days next year to decrease student stress

Josie Abugov

The school plans to initiate two pairs of late-start block schedule days for the 2018-2019 school year, Head of Upper School Laura Ross said.
Ross welcomed the idea after members of Prefect Council approached her with thoughts on how to adjust the current schedule to reduce student stress. The late-start days will come in pairs: periods 1-4 will meet on the first day and periods 5-8 will meet on the next. Both days will start at 10 a.m., and each class will be 75-minutes. The administration plans on holding the first pair of these trial days in first quarter and the second pair in third quarter, Ross said.
“We are starting a conversation at this school about our use of time, schedule and what our goals are,” Ross said.
In a Chronicle February poll of 265 students, 91 percent of respondents said the current school schedule affects their sleep schedule. Of those students, 95 percent said the school’s 8 a.m. start time negatively affects the amount of sleep they get per night, and 79 percent of students polled said they would support a later start time.
Taking student complaints into account, Senior Prefect Eli Timoner ’18 said that adjusting the schedule has been a priority for prefect council this year. He also said that he drew inspiration from other private schools, such as Campbell Hall and Marlborough, that have implemented late-start schedules.
“People come to school like zombies,” Timoner said. “We roll out of bed at 6 a.m. and we’re tired and we’re not ready for class, and teachers know that. Teachers who teach for the first two periods of the day just expect their kids not to be as responsive.”
The block schedule will also give more time in class for teachers who don’t teach double periods. English teacher Ariana Kelly said this change would allow students to delve more deeply into class discussions and activities.
“I often ask my students to write on a question before we talk about it, but I hardly ever feel like I’m able to give them enough time to develop their thoughts,” Kelly said in an email. “Longer periods might also open space for different kinds of projects and assessments.”
While President Rick Commons said he was not directly involved in the decision to introduce late-start days into the schedule, he supports Prefect Council and Ross’ efforts.
“I am in favor in our doing everything we can creatively with the schedule to help students accomplish the same academic goals while getting more rest and more balance in their lives,” Commons said. “If we can do the late starts without traffic being a major impediment, I think it would be interesting to try.”