There is no indication that Greenwich will revert back to 7:30 start times. Their 2018-2019 budget contains all provisions for the later start times. The Sleep for Success Westport website has done a great job of explaining what’s going on in Greenwich, what we can learn from them, why they are unique, and how, actually, Greenwich kids are doing better, which was the point of the change. We have copied that detail here:
There was a good op-ed published in the Greenwich times regarding this issue, which you can see here. We’ve made some additional points and provided details below.
First - and in spite of the initial logistical difficulties which are addressed in more detail below – there’s no real evidence that the new schedule in Greenwich is unsuccessful. As the author of the op-ed explained, “[a]ll leading medical authorities and experts in the United States have spoken in one voice recommending an 8:30 start a.m. time or later” based on extensive evidence from multiple fields. Some parents have claimed that the 8:30 a.m. start time is worse than the old 7:30 a.m. start time, but this is anecdotal evidence. And there is just as much, if not more, anecdotal evidence from other parents indicating the opposite. For example, one mom of two high-achieving GHS students recently reported that (a) her kids get their homework done earlier because they are more alert and efficient (b) they go to bed at the same time or earlier, and (c) they have not had a single sick day. Another parent was thrilled that her son, an all-state musician, is sleeping more, learning new pieces faster, and performing better than ever.
What’s more, Greenwich High School’s sports teams and clubs have been unusually successful since the 8:30 a.m. start time was implemented. For example:
- The football team was undefeated in regular season – which hasn’t happened since 2006 – and made it to the state finals,
- The women’s volleyball team won both the state and FCIAC titles for the first time in program history,
- The women’s swimming and diving team won the FCIAC and state championships, with both individual swimmers and relays breaking long-standing state and team records,
- The men’s soccer team won the FCIAC championship,
- The women’s cross-country team won its first FCIAC title since 1981 and came in second at the state championships,
- The men’s crew team had their best results in the history of the program at the Head of the Charles,
- The Model UN Club won eight awards at the Princeton University Model United Nations Conference, and
- The GHS debate team came in first place at the Connecticut Debate Tournament
These outcomes make sense because students with later school start times get more sleep, and students that get more and better sleep perform better in academics and athletics.
Second, Greenwich experienced some unique logistical difficulties that probably would not occur at all or to the same extent in Westport.
- General: It is possible that the implementation team in Greenwich could have prevented some problems from occurring through better planning in the 14 months prior to the start of the 2017 – 2018 school year. The Greenwich School District had new administrators in key positions, including the Superintendent, Chief Operating Officer, and head of transportation. The start time project manager also left the school district and was never replaced. It is unlikely that our seasoned administrators and implementation committee would make the same mistakes, especially with the benefit of knowing the hiccups that occurred in other towns like Greenwich.
- Transportation: Some of the initial bussing problems in Greenwich could have been ameliorated by better planning. Reportedly, administrators made modifications to the school bus consultants’ plan on their own. Then there was no dry run of the new bus routes. Had this occurred, bus drivers probably wouldn’t have gotten lost or been late and administrators would have realized in advance that a main road needed to be repaved to accommodate some of the new, larger busses. As explained in the op-ed, transportation-related problems have been ironed out: “Bus ridership is up sharply, presumably because students no longer have to choose between catching a very early bus or driving to school so they can get more sleep. With the addition of three extra busses and some route fine-tuning, 100 percent of busses are now arriving before the bell time in the morning.”
- Traffic Congestion: School start times aside, Greenwich High School has a difficult location for purposes of traffic, regardless of what time school starts and ends. The school is near I-95 and right off what is effectively Post Road in Greenwich. The town is also in a tough spot for purposes of traveling to games and competitions after school. Greenwich is on the western border of the FCIAC Conference, which means that travel to away games is always in the direction of rush hour traffic. Westport is more centrally located, and we can ask our independent school bus consultants to come up with start-time scenarios that are traffic neutral or possibly even improve traffic flow.
- Field Lighting: The football team ended up having some post-regular-season practices with little daylight. With respect to field lighting, Greenwich High School is in a uniquely difficult situation due to more burdensome zoning regulations and a litigious neighbor. All officials were aware of these issues over a year before the 2017-2018 school year, but the school board didn’t approach the P&Z to install temporary field lights until October 2017 (this application hasn’t been decided and football season is over). And the district only recently decided to pursue litigation to relax the restrictions on the high school field lighting. The district could have started these efforts a year earlier or explored other solutions such as using nearby fields and lighting at Central Middle School, installing a temporary bubble over the GHS fields, or reducing the football’s team practice time from 3 hours to 2.5 hours. Sports are an important component of student life, and later school start times would improve our athlete’s performance dramatically. Our excellent school administrators work together and with local youth athletic organizations to iron out implementation logistics related to athletics.
- Missed Classes for Athletes: As mentioned previously, Greenwich is on the western border of the FCIAC. The town’s sports teams already have to travel greater distances than Westport student athletes because Westport is more centrally located. And Greenwich makes every one of these trips in the direction of rush hour traffic. Our student athletes would not have to leave as early to get to away games. For the students that do have to leave early, however, why not use the new start times as impetus for having any class recorded that must be missed for athletes to attend away games. These classes would be known well in advance, so it wouldn’t be burdensome to plan, and the technology involved to do so is relatively inexpensive. If we could do this, our athletes might end up “missing” less class than they did before the start times changed.