U-CF school board suggests starting school day later
By John Chambless
During an otherwise routine meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford school board on Sept. 15, board member Jeff Hellrung mentioned a topic that should grab the attention of any sleepy student who dreads the morning alarm clock.
Hellrung casually mentioned that he'd been thinking about why students start the school day so early. Perhaps, he suggested, it's a holdover from the days when America was largely rural, and families were accustomed to rising with the sun to begin farm chores.
“As a teacher, though, I can say that students are not as sharp in that first period class,” he said, adding that if students got home later in the afternoon, it would reduce the number of hours that they are alone before their parents return from work.
“This may be something for us to pursue,” Hellrung said. “Perhaps we could do a survey of parents for their thoughts. I think it would be an enduring contribution for us to make.”
Board member Steve Simonson echoed Hellrung's thoughts, citing a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics that showed the sleep cycles of teens, in particular, are way out of sync with the school bell.
“This is something we might want to take on,” Simonson said. “It's a topic that we could look at over the next two or three years, to see if anything is feasible. There are logistical implications for families,” he added, “but it's worth exploring.”
Board member Kathleen Do also agreed, saying her son had studied sleep requirements as part of a school project. “I'm thrilled at the prospect of doing this,” she said.
Hellrung said he will be holding initial discussions with Joe O'Brien at the Chester County Intermediate Unit this week to determine if there is broad support for studying a later start to the school day.
There was no public comment on the issue of redistricting, but school superintendent John Sanville did mention that the administration is beginning to pursue solutions to overcrowding at Pocopson Elementary School.
“Redistricting is not a topic that this adminstration brings forward lightly,” Sanville said. “It's an important issue. We are areare that homes are purchased based on schools, and that students form an attachment to their schools. We respect the emotions and the energy that our community feels about this issue, and we want to partner with them going forward.
“No decisions have been made,” Sanville emphasized. “We will involve the community, look at the data, and make a decision based on all the input.”
Sanville said two companies have submitted bids to perform a study of elementary school boundary lines in the district, and that he would be part of interviews with the two companies on Sept. 17. After all information is submitted to the school board, they will be asked to select one company to perform the work at their October board work session, Sanville said. There is a page on the school district website (www.ucfsd.org) that will be devoted to distributing information about redistricting.
The board voted to approve extending a contract with Voss and Associates to work with the district on communications. The company has been improving and guiding improved communications for the past several months, and the nine-month contract extension will continue that work, at a cost of $25,000. Sanville said he will report a list of items that will be accomplished by Voss and Associates in November.