ANDOVER — A parents' group opposed to changing school start times allied with the teachers' union last week to put out a statement condemning the proposal to push start times earlier for elementary school students and later for high school kids.

On Thursday, A:PAC, or Andover: Protect All Children, and the AEA, Andover Education Association, collaborated in a joint public resolution to ask the Andover School Committee to refrain from changing school start times for the 2020-21 academic year.

As of last week's School Committee meeting, it appears the five-member board is going full-steam ahead on plans to change start times, despite serious concerns by parents of younger children.

Only School Committee member Paul Murphy has shown a willingness to slow the process down, making a motion last week to delay any implementation until the 2021-2022 school year.

His motion failed for lack of a second.

"We are disappointed with this result," according to a statement from A:PAC president Brianna Rowley and AEA president Matthew Bach. "In response to an audible disappointed murmur from the crowd when Paul Murphy's motion received no second, members of the school committee justified their unwillingness to slow down decision-making by stating that they did not want to lose community involvement or momentum to work on the issue.

"Asking members of the School Committee to publicly announce that they will refrain from voting to change school start times for next year is not the equivalent of asking them to cease work on this important issue, but rather, it is asking them to acknowledge that the work has just begun."

The statement, given to the School Committee at its Dec. 5 meeting, said, in part:

"We hereby request that the Andover School Committee vote to refrain from changing school start times for the 2020-21 academic school year."

The statement went on to say the delay would "allow time for a thorough vetting of impacts to all stakeholders." They said it would allow a Community Advisory Committee to conduct "comprehensive research on a wide range of variables that affect not only teenage sleep and social/emotional learning," but also research on the impact of the changes on "children of all age groups, pre-K through 12."

They said the advisory committee could look at "factors such as diet and caffeine consumption, educator-to-student ratios, responsible technology use (such as creative, no-cost solutions to limit screen time for teenagers) and for a more extensive exploration of other budget-sensitive options to modified school start times, such as split secondary schedule options."

The statement was signed by Rowley and Bach. 

 

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