New Paltz to hold community forum to discuss moving back school start time

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

With a new school year having just begun, the New Paltz Central School District met for a brief meeting at the district offices on Wednesday, September 20. On the agenda was a discussion of what the district’s priorities this year should be.

Board of Education trustees agreed to carry over the stated priorities from last year, and to allow room for any new priorities that might come up in the course of time.

First on the list to resolve this year is the ongoing initiative to push back the start of the school day in order to give middle and high school students sufficient time to sleep eight or nine hours a night, maximizing their academic potential and keeping them in good health. The district’s proposal is based on scientific research that indicates a positive outcome in those areas when starting the school day later. The research also indicates there is less chance teens will engage in risk-taking behaviors (such as substance abuse), and teens are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety when getting sufficient sleep.

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The Board of Education cited studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics last year in making the decision to go forward with the proposal to change the school schedule. But over the course of the discussion last year, trustees determined they needed more information before they could make a final decision.

A community forum will be held on Wednesday, October 4 at 7 p.m. during the board’s regular meeting at the high school. Public comment will be taken first, with parents encouraged to attend and voice their opinions on the matter. Comments will be followed by a presentation enlarging upon the basis for the change in start time. It’s not likely the decision whether to proceed with the proposal will be made that night, but it should at least provide the last bit of information trustees need to come to a conclusion by the end of the year, a goal voiced by board president Michael O’Donnell.

The additional priorities for the New Paltz district will be to continue the process of establishing non-academic indicators of success in students and ensuring racial equity in all matters. “That’s something we’ll never be done with,” said schools Superintendent Maria Rice.

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