By Shauli Bar-On
Published: December 9, 2015
Progress is developing slowly in late start petition founder Sharlene Liu’s goal of an 8:30 a.m. or later school start time.
In an effort to continue the conversation about late starts, Liu, along with FUHSD Superintendent Polly Bove, Principal Greg Giglio, Board President Barbara Nunez and Fremont Education Association (FEA) Union President Jason Heskett attended Stanford sleep researcher Dr. Rafael Pelayo’s yearly lecture at Mountain View High School (MVHS) on Nov. 18.
There were some 200 to 300 members of the community in attendance, Giglio said.
“[The lecture was] informative and captivating for teenagers. It was entertaining for us as adults,” Liu said, “[Pelayo] is a dynamic speaker.”
Those who attended the lecture do not dispute the science of sleep, Giglio said.
“Dr. Pelayo is not about changing schedules,” Giglio said, “[he is] about sleep. There are a lot of things that contribute to lack of sleep.”
The early school start time could be one contributing issue and the administration recognizes this.
Giglio said the administration is weighing the possibility of giving students the option to opt out of taking a first period, much like they can do with seventh block. This option would allow students to start school past 9:00 a.m. on three weekdays.
The other main factor contributing to lack of student sleep is homework load.
“I think we need to do a delayed start and we need to look at the homework load,” Liu said, “but we don’t need to wait for the homework load to be ironed out before we do the delayed start. They are independent of each other.”
Liu said getting Pelayo to speak to the entire district is difficult. Liu said she has worked with the PTSA to schedule a talk during a general meeting on Jan. 20. Parents and students from the entire district will be invited.
Giglio additionally sent an unofficial poll to all HHS staff asking about their general stance on later start times and interest in hosting Dr. Pelayo on campus.
From the survey results, Giglio said most teachers are interested in obtaining more information from Pelayo.
“The survey also shows that the staff is split about the idea of a late start,” Giglio said in an email, “but the majority of those who responded would like to have more information before considering the issue further.”
Progress with the district-wide committee has been slow, Liu said.
“[The committee is] still in its very, very infant stages,” Giglio said. “We haven’t sat down and asked ‘how do we want to do this,’ but that’s our next step.”
FEA HHS site president, JAVA teacher John Shelby said he suspects the district must make a decision before the FEA, FUHSD’s branch of the California Teachers Association, begins discussing the possibility of a late start.
“People, of course, have heard about [the late start idea] so teachers are having discussions just with each other about it,” Shelby said. “As an organization, FEA has not made a decision nor are we right now actively attempting to move toward an organizational opinion … If anything, we’re still at the point of discussing getting more information.”