Carlisle/West Shore

South Middleton parents discuss school start-time swap

BOILING SPRINGS, Pa. (WHTM) - South Middleton School District officials continued their talks about swapping school times for their elementary and secondary students on Thursday night.

The idea is just a proposal and far from finalized. The district wants elementary students to start between 7:15 to 7:30, while middle and high school students could sleep in and start between 8:30 to 8:45. 

District officials said two reasons are driving the swap: pediatric studies that support adolescents sleeping longer and starting school later, and allowing more planning time for high school teachers. 

"You can't fight the science that we're looking for the best for our kids, and we're looking for the best for our teachers to learn and grow and succeed," superintendent Matt Strine said.

Many parents worried that only some would grow and succeed.  

"We need to see more data on the effects to elementary school children. The results could be a zero-sum game, potentially placing one group's problems over another age group," said Steve Thorne, who has kids in both age groups. 

"We need to work together to prepare them for life, not for tests, not for high school, but for their lives, in general," said Bridget Goodman, a mother who also has kids in both age groups. 

Other parents thought that times should be a-changin'. 

"If I could make this happen like that, I would do it in every school district across the United States because it's not just my lived experience, it's also what we know works," said Adam Oldham, a parent and high school counselor. 

"Change is difficult for everybody. Children are resilient. We'll be fine," said Gene Yanity, a Cumberland Valley teacher. 

Oldham said teenage suicide rates have skyrocketed and there's disinterest in school. The swap could turn back the clock. 

"In districts where these changes have happened, young people don't fall apart. The little people do just fine," Oldham said. 

No matter what, district officials said they want what's best for students. 

"It could be the difference between a B or an A or a C or a B, but really, what it comes down to is beyond the grade, it's the learning," Strine said.

The earliest the board could vote on the issue is Feb. 4. 

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