2006-05-25 / News

Teens not sleeping enough; later start proposed at NK

By Donna K. Drago

At its May 18 meeting, the School Committee heard a report on how lack of sleep impacts the lives of high school students from a member of the North Kingstown School Start Time Committee.

The committee was formed to determine if a later school starting time would be better for high school students attending North Kingstown High School, Jamestown's high school of record.

Susan Safford, a Jamestown parent, told the school board that "adolescent sleep/wake cycles are completely different from our own." Safford described a "very convincing study" by a Brown University researcher, who spoke to the sleep committee. People between the ages of 14 and 22 need more sleep than any other age group, according to the researcher, Safford said. At times, during the school day, students "actually sleep with their eyes open," as their "brains shut down" because they have not gotten the required hours of sleep, Safford noted.

"Teachers are very unhappy" with the present situation of students arriving late to school and even allow them to eat breakfast during their early classes "to keep them awake," Safford said.

Currently, high school in North Kingstown begins at 7:05 a.m. Safford said her committee is recommending that high school begin between 7:30 and 8 a.m., noting that although they need more sleep, students said that after school jobs and athletic commitments would prevent them from starting their day any later. William "Bucky" Brennan, member of the Jamestown school panel, and liaison to the N.K. school board, said that the report was met with favorably by the majority of the N.K. board. He said many Jamestown parents and students think 7:05 is "way too early" to start classes.

The Jamestown School Committee agreed that high school students would benefit from a later starting time, but asked School Superintendent Kathy Sipala to look into the possible impacts on the use of Jamestown's school bus schedule. The committee will discuss the impacts at its next meeting.

In other business, the School Committee:

+ Heard a second reading of the district Nutrition and Physical Activity Policy, but did not take a vote pending further research on whether vitamin waters, which students enthusiastically purchase,

would be able to be sold under the present wording of the proposed policy.

+ Approved the recall of three teachers who had been put on notice that their contracts could possibly be terminated at the end of the school year. The teachers are Kristen DeSantis, a grade 8 English teacher; Nicholas Alfred, in grade 7 math, and Patricia McDevitt, a special educator in the autism program. The school panel also approved two job-sharing teams of Mary Jane Moynihan and Jennifer Francis, who will

share a grade 1 position, and Karyn Kauffman and Faith Kaplan, who will share the job of music teacher at the Lawn school.

+ Learned from Sipala that current fall enrollment projections are lower than anticipated at budget time. The largest drop is in kindergarten, where there are 19 fewer students registered than expected. Sipala said she still expects more children to register for that grade and for more military families, who are here for the Naval War College, to register before September.

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