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Letter to the Editor

School start time change is the wrong decision

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To the editor: Our school board has changed school start and end times for all public schools next year. Under the plan they have chosen, most elementary schools will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. I do not believe this plan is the best fit for Fairbanks families.

Very few parents of young kids work a schedule that will allow them to drop their children off at 9:30 a.m. Unless our school district is willing to fund a robust before-care program in all of the affected elementary schools (they’re not!), this plan will place an undue burden on local families.

Young children’s attention wanes as the day goes on. It is extremely difficult for children, especially our youngest kids, to focus and learn after 1 p.m. Much critical learning time will be lost for these kids as they will simply not be able to attend to their assignments in the afternoons. Children have much lower retention of skills when they are tired and burnt out. This will be a further hindrance in helping our students who have missed instruction this year get caught up.

In past years the motivating factor in changing school start times was to allow middle and high school to begin later in the day. Research shows that teenagers need that extra time in the mornings due to changes in their circadian rhythm. The schedule the school board has chosen puts mid and high schools in the earlier tier, beginning at 7:45 a.m., and elementary in the later tier, in opposition to the research.

Do we truly want to support our children and families and allow our students to make up some of the learning gaps that have been caused by the pandemic? Then we as a borough need to recognize families’ child care needs, be thoughtful about what science says regarding children’s and teenagers’ sleep habits, and create a schedule that will allow all of our children to be successful students.

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