2 Arlington Moms Want High School Morning Bells to Ring Later

Parents circulate petition to delay start of school day until after 8 a.m.

Two mothers say high school starts too early in the Arlington school district.

Cheryl Till and Debbie Moore, the mothers of two Martin High School students, are pushing for a later start time in the Arlington Independent School District's high schools.

Arlington high schools currently begin at 7:35 a.m. Till and Moore are circulating a petition to the district to start classes after 8 a.m.

"[Students] are sleep-deprived, so they're not alert ... and ready to learn," Till said.

Barbara Curreri, a mother of six and a former teacher, said she sent all six of her children to a private school in Arlington in part because AISD schools start too early.

"It's still dark," she said. "I mean, for a majority of the winter, it's a dark time, and the kids cannot get -- especially teenagers; their serotonin level gets all messed up."

"You can have the most eloquent teacher doing the most fantastic job of teaching, but if a child is sleep-deprived, they're going to miss the lecture," Till said.

Till and Moore cite research that shows that teenagers typically are not ready to go to bed until later in the night because of their biological makeup -- sleep hormones in teens are not released until later in the night.

A later bedtime plus an early start equals less sleep, they said.

"You could do everything as a parent that you could possibly do to ensure that your kid gets in bed on time, and he's still not going to fall asleep," Moore said.

Till said the studies also show that when teens get the nine hours of sleep they need, "attendance goes up, graduation rates go up, dropout rates go down."

Curreri, a former teacher, said she has seen morning fatigue firsthand in the classroom.

"Being a teacher, you see it," she said. They're much more alert. They're just not in the zone of sleepwalking through the first two classes."

"It's also about their emotional well-being," Moore said. "We want to enjoy our teens, not just endure them."

Jimmy Lilly's said the early start actually benefited his son, who graduated from high school last spring.

"We loved it," he said. "He was an early riser, so it worked out well with his schedule. He got great grades, and it gave him more time after school to do his homework."

Start times at elementary, middle and high schools are currently staggered for logistical reasons. AISD administrators say changing bus schedules would be the biggest challenge associated with changing start times.

But Interim Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said that: "The start time of school for students is important in their functioning."

Enhancing student performance is central to AISD's current strategic plan, which aims at finding the instructional model that produces the greatest academic achievement.

That's why Cavazos said that while it would require much analysis and research, the district is keeping an open mind about the morning bell.

"This is an important discussion, as are those other components that effect student performance," he said.

Moore and Till plan to meet with school board members Thursday.

Their petition on Change.org had garnered more than 200 signatures as of Monday night.

More: Moore and Till's petition on Change.org

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