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Lower Merion School District

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Sleep & School Start Times

UPDATE: In Spring 2020 after a series of community listening sessions, the Lower Merion Board of School Directors approved a move to later start times for high school students, dependent on approval of the District’s application on install lights at Lower Merion High School’s Arnold Field.

In September 2021, the Lower Merion Township Zoning Hearing Board overruled a prior decision by its own Zoning Officer with regard to the District’s proposed installation of athletic field lighting at Arnold Field. The Zoning Officer had ruled the lights could be installed. The Hearing Board ruled in favor of the Wynnewood Civic Association, who argued against the lights.

The proposed lighting would the minimum necessary to ensure the safety of student athletes and the ability to use Arnold Field in the evenings. It would enable the District to move forward with plans to implement later school start times for high school students, to better align with adolescent sleep patterns and improve the mental and physical health of thousands of students each year. Without the lights, LM’s student athletes (approximately 50% of students) will not able to practice and compete safely throughout the fall sports season if later start times were to be implemented.

As of Fall 2021, the School Board and legal counsel are in the process of reviewing the decision and considering next steps to support our community’s students.

The School Board’s decision to support later start times came a series of listening sessions on the subject of school start times in December 2020. Interested parties may review the the infographic PDF download and watch the video presentation Lower Merion School District summarizing the proposal under consideration and share your feedback by emailing sleep@lmsd.org.

Research and Development Workgroup on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Time

Background: Over the past several years, much attention has focused on delaying the start of the school day as a way to address chronic sleep loss in adolescents. The biological changes that youth undergo with the onset of puberty lead to a shift in circadian rhythms, pushing the onset of sleepiness later into the evening than either children or adults – about 11:00 p.m. Given the recommendations for adolescents to sleep 8-10 hours per night, a bedtime of 11:00 p.m. should ideally be coupled with a wakeup time of no earlier than 7:00-7:30 a.m., depending on the length of time it takes to fall asleep with a bedtime of 11:00 p.m. These biological patterns are in conflict with early school start times, leading several organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical Association (AMA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC), to recommend that middle and high school start times begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The Lower Merion School District has been examining the feasibility of shifting school start times to align with these recommendations. An administrative committee initiated as a Research and Development (R & D) Committee through the All Forward strategic plan has been working to collect information that will be needed by the Lower Merion Board of School Directors to understand the research surrounding this topic, learn from the experiences of other school districts, and consider relevant factors related to the unique context of the Lower Merion School District. Please see our Information Library, which contains information collected through the District's exploration of the issues and feasibility of changing school start times to respond to the best practice recommendations of starting school for middle and high school students no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The presentation on October 24, 2019, included a recommendation to make middle school and high school start later, and elementary school start earlier, beginning in September 2020. All community members were invited to the presentation. A video of the meeting has been posted in the Board section of the District website and a 10-minute video summary is available here.

The District has scheduled Listening Sessions for community members, staff and students in November and December 2019. The Board will hear an update, including information about the input gathered at the Listening Sessions, in January, 2020. At that time, the Board may request additional information or recommendations. Also, in January, the District will be conducting a survey on this issue.    In addition, community members are invited to share their input via email to Sleep@lmsd.org. The Board will consider all of the community    input prior to voting in  Spring 2020.

The infographic here provides an overview of the recommendation and the process that led up to it, along with an explanation of its potential benefits and challenges. Please review it carefully. A list of Frequently Asked Questions is available here.

Informational updates from the All Forward Research and Development Committee’s Workgroup on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Time:

To view more information on the Interschool Council (ISC) page, click here.