It’s been almost a month since the Wayland School Committee’s 4-1 vote to push back school start times. From a student’s perspective, I will readily admit that I have no problem whatsoever with spending an extra hour in bed in the mornings next year. As a Wayland resident and WHS student, I will receive all the benefits the proposed change brings – after all, the shift was designed specifically to help middle and high schoolers.
But despite all the potential advantages, I can’t help but feel uneasy about the School Committee decision on the whole. According to the committee, Wayland has been considering a transition to later start times for three years now, spending ample time on researching and developing a plan that would benefit all students in the school system. The decision, however, does not seem to reflect that goal.
Wayland has earned itself a reputation as a welcoming and inclusive town. When I moved here in seventh grade, I was pleasantly surprised at the efforts the school took in order to create an accepting environment for all students. Through the schoolwide programs, individual student initiatives and congenial atmosphere, you get the feeling that no matter who you are or where you come from, you belong here.
That’s why I was so shocked when the School Committee made its decision to implement the changes. In a town where so much emphasis is placed upon inclusion and empathy, it’s hard to believe that a proposal as exclusive as this one would get passed.
At its core, the proposed change is biased. Specifically designed with Wayland residents in mind, the pushback leaves out-of-town students in the cold, especially those in the METCO program. Boston students already have to deal with a tough commute; they wake up before the crack of dawn to get to school and get home very late due to traffic. As some METCO students have mentioned, the proposed change will make issues with transportation a complete nightmare – so much so that some students, such as junior Jaden Brewington, might not even be able to stay at WHS. Yet the School Committee has not come up with adequate solutions for any of these problems.
Yes, it’s true that the changes may provide some benefits to the majority of Wayland students. The research cited by the Committee does provide evidence that teenagers perform better going to sleep and waking up later. But the fact is, pushing start times does not truly solve this so-called “sleep epidemic.” Although students will be waking up later, the pushed back times will all but guarantee that they go to bed later.
Students in the METCO program are not the only ones with qualms about the changes. Not only does the decision disregard the nearly two-thirds of Wayland teachers that oppose the move, but it also dismisses the concerns of many parents, specifically those with elementary school children, who will be going to school almost an hour earlier.
The School Committee also defended its decision by stating that there has been a lot of planning and forethought dedicated to this change. But the committee has yet to release solutions for conflicts with after-school sports, busing routes or other issues voiced by members of the community.
The issue of the school start times has become more than a debate about when kids get up and go to school. It’s become a matter of creed. What do we as a town value and stand for? From a young age, we are taught that our actions speak louder than our words. And although the School Committee may say that this proposal is meant to benefit all students in the Wayland Public Schools, through this vote, they’ve sent a clear message: as a town, Wayland is not actually as welcoming as we make ourselves out to be.
Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.