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Healthier Students Begin with Smart Start Times

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

On January 22, 2020 Anne Arundel County Board of Education District 6 candidate Joanna Bache Tobin presented the following testimony in support of changing school start times to between 8 am and 9 am.

Good Evening President Corkadel, Vice President Ellis, Dr. Arlotto, and Members of the Board,

My name is Joanna Bache Tobin. I'm a candidate for the Board of Education, representing District 6. I'm also Vice President of the PTSA at Annapolis High School where my daughter is a senior. When she began high school several years ago, I was already aware that teenagers' sleep routines differ from those of younger children and adults, and that teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night. I understood the research behind recommendations to move school start times later and the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to safeguard the mental and physical health of our teens. The science is clear. We should not be knowingly putting our children at risk because changing school start times is inconvenient or challenging.

Our teenagers live life in the fast lane: growing, studying, experiencing signficant brain growth and change, learning to drive, gaining autonomy and coping with daily pressure and stress. I've witnessed my daughter's exhaustion, and even illness, stemming from the lack of sleep brought about by these pressures and the early school start times. To compensate for early morning starts, our family has resorted to new routines. My husband and I often drive our daughter to school so she can get a precious extra 20 or 30 minutes of sleep each morning. She's lucky that way. But many of her classmates have not been so fortunate.

Also, like many other parents, my husband and I have tried to follow the advice of our child's physician. But with regard to proper sleep, the doctor's recommendations brush up against AACPS policies. This concerns me for several reasons. Our children trust us to do what is in their best interests. We coach them on healthy lifestyles and putting health first, but then, as adults, we model a different pattern. As a parent and an educator, I know firsthand the choices we make for our children, good or bad, are apparent to them. Make no mistake, they are watching us.

Change is uncomfortable and even hard, no doubt. But our actions, or lack of them, are a roadmap for our children's future. We can show them we believe their health is important enough to brave the challenges of solving complex problems of bus routes, traffic, and funding. Or, we can show them that mental and physical health are important as long as they do not inconvenience us.

Please change these school start times to start all schools between 8 and 9 am, and help us to restore our children's trust and show them what it means to truly value living a healthy, balanced and productive life.

Thank you.

Joanna Bache Tobin

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