School committee members are waiting on more independent research to be completed before deciding whether to change school start times, according to Chairman Joel Blumstein.

Blumstein explained Monday that the committee has not yet deliberated on the hot topic in town, and that a transportation impact report is expected from an outside firm by the end of this week.

“That’s someone who looks at our different bus routes, looks at the difference in keeping the status quo or flipping elementary start times or shifting everything later,” he said. “They’re looking at what the impact would be of adding a certain number of busses, things like that.”

Blumstein anticipates he will present those findings at the committee’s next meeting Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Last week, folks filed into the Andover High School library for a forum on school start times moderated by Blumstein.

Current school start times are 7:45 a.m. for middle and high school students and 8:45 a.m. for the elementary grades.

Several options were laid out for parents.

One option, called the "flip," would have elementary students start between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m., while the middle- and high-schoolers would begin their day between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

Another option, called the "shift," would start middle- and high-schoolers between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. The younger students would report to school between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.

The flip was widely disdained by most of the estimated 200 parents in attendance.

School Committee member Shannon Scully said at the forum that educators are looking into later start times because they want to "try to improve the physical health and academic performance of adolescents."

She cited studies that show teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep every night – and they often cannot fall asleep until 11 p.m.

According to Blumstein, the conversation was sparked in Andover a year and a half ago.

“It’s something that districts across the country are looking at,” he said. “We’re hardly alone. There are plenty of districts in Massachusetts looking at it.”

During their own exploration, Andover school leaders have appointed a working group and heard from a superintendent in the nearby Burlington School District after later start times were adopted there.

When committee members were asked Monday which way they were leaning, those who responded directed a reporter to Blumstein.

“We have made no decision on this matter,” he said. “We haven’t deliberated. My colleagues feel similarly. I’m personally not taking a position until I hear all of the results of the study.”

The committee has gotten many requests to delay the decision, which is expected in the coming month, Blumstein said.

“We’re going to talk about that at the next meeting, too,” he said. "We're staying open to a decision in a month, two months, or pushing it even more."

District surveys, background and important dates are compiled on a landing page on the Andover School District website. 


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