Friday, February 13, 2004

School times debated

Switching starting hours heats parents

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - A tense crowd of more than 100 parents argued the merits Thursday of changing morning start times for students in Campbell County.

The school board is likely to consider a proposal at its March 22 meeting. Parents can again address the district committee that may recommend a change on Feb. 19.

Campbell County's middle and high schools now start at 7:30 a.m. and its elementaries at 8:30 a.m. But research shows that teenagers would be better off with a later start time, because puberty-related changes make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m., district officials say.

Reversing the start times would affect not only 4,700 students in Campbell's public schools but also about 1,900 parochial students, because they ride the same buses.

Even families elsewhere in Northern Kentucky might be affected. At least one other district is watching Campbell's debate with an eye towards making its own changes, district administrator Brian Mercer said.

On Thursday night, many parents expressed concerns about any change. Some worried about young children waiting for buses in the dark or returning home before older siblings.

Others said that if teens have trouble getting ready in the morning, elementary kids are no better.

"It's all that my wife and I can take to get them going in the morning," Ed Rawe said of his three children, who attend a Catholic elementary school. "The older kids are more independent and can take care of themselves."

Others took issue with the notion that teens are groggy and unable to learn at 7:30 a.m.

"I can get my brain woken up before school," said Ryan Hayes, 14, of Campbell County Middle School.

Parent Greg Wieland said it's the job of parents, not school officials, to make sure kids are well-rested.

"If it's bedtime at 9:30 p.m., then you get your butt to bed!" Wieland said to applause from the crowd.

But a number of others were in favor of switching the start times for older and younger kids.

Bev Drye, mother of a freshman at Bishop Brossart High School, said the focus should be on the academic benefits to young people.

"He leaves for school at 10 till 6. He rides the bus for an hour and 20 minutes. He comes home and goes straight to bed," Drye said.

But try as he might, he can't fall asleep early enough to feel rested, she said.

The next public forum on morning start times in Campbell County will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 19, at the Southern Campbell Fire Department at U.S. 27 and Racetrack Road.


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