At least a handful of Montclair residents have signed a national petition to get the government to mandate that the school day start later.
The petition is part of a national campaign to provide teenagers with more time for sleep, based on studies showing that many students are seriously sleep deprived. Students in the neighboring districts of Millburn, South Orange-Maplewood, West Orange, and Livingston also signed the petition.
The petition seeking to promote legislation to prohibit public schools from starting the school day before 8 a.m. has garnered more than 2,100 of the 5,000 signatures needed before it can be brought before Congress, the Senate and President Barack Obama.
“When we reach 5,000, we will be hand-delivering this petition to select members of Congress and the White House administration,” said Terra Ziporyn Snider, with Start School Later, a group of parents, medical professionals and caregivers circulating the petition.
Snider said that the petition has no official deadline, but that "we hope to get to the 5,000 mark by March or so and then we'll personally deliver it to Washington DC, perhaps in honor of National Sleep Awareness Week (which is March 5-11)."
One commenter on the petition from Short Hills said: "Starting school later is not only beneficial for the students but also the teachers. Many teachers wake up as early as 5 a.m. to drive up to an hour to get to Millburn. By starting after 8 a.m. teachers will be more rested when teaching and students will be more attentive."
In Montclair, school board members have said they would like to take a look at start times—at all schools—as part of an overall evaluation of the school district.
When making a check of nearby school districts, middle schools elsewhere do indeed offer later start/finish times than Montclair's middle schools.
For example, Bloomfield Middle School starts at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:28 p.m. The middle schools in Maplewood and South Orange start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m., with teachers often working with children until 3:15 p.m. In Livingston, the Heritage Middle School starts at 8:20 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. while the Mount Pleasant Middle School starts at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:14 p.m.
In Montclair, Mount Hebron Middle School starts at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 2:09 p.m. while Glenfield Middle School starts at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 2:08 p.m. Renaisssance Middle School, however, starts at 8:20 a.m. and ends at 4:05 p.m. except on Friday, when school ends at 2:35 p.m.
The case of more sleep for teenage students
According to the Sleep Foundation, only 14 percent of teenagers get the recommended nine hours of sleep on a school night. Start School Later points to several studies that address the need for sleep in adolescents.
- A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that because of their natural body rhythms, teens have trouble falling asleep before 11 at night and so waking up to get to school seven hours later prohibits teens from getting enough sleep.
- New York Magazine reported the findings of sleep expert Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, who said, “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.”
- Teens who get more sleep are more alert in the morning and therefore less likely to be involved in car accidents, the leading cause of death among adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To view or sign the petition, click here.
in Fairfield, Conn., contributed to this report.