Sleep doctor lectures on start times

Issue4FrontPage (1)

Dr. Pelayo speaks to PTSA, district forms committee

By Shauli Bar-On

Published January 27, 2016

Sleep expert Dr. Rafael Pelayo spoke to a full crowd at last week’s PTSA meeting in the HHS auditorium. Parents, students, staff and administration from the district all secured tickets before the event was fully booked.

“Parents were asking me by email… sounding kind of desperate [to attend the event],” Sharlene Liu, the HHS parent who invited Pelayo to speak, said.

Liu has been in talks with administration to delay school start times since she founded the Change.org petition in favor of this change last year.

The FUHSD Board listened to Pelayo’s annual talk at Mountain View High School late last year and decided to allow the PTSA to host him at HHS. Pelayo will also speak on the same topic to HHS staff at an upcoming monthly staff meeting on Feb. 22,  Principal Greg Giglio said.

Three district board members, President Huang Wei as well as Nancy Newton and Bill Wilson, all attended Pelayo’s talk, as well as Giglio and other HHS staff also attended.

Pelayo has been a sleep researcher at Stanford University for 23 years, where he teaches the “Sleep and Dreams” class. He also co-wrote the book “Sleep and Dreams” (2014) with colleague Dr. William Demence.

Pelayo spoke about the science of sleep, focusing on the required sleep of adolescents. He stressed the significance of a teenager’s required nine hours of sleep and cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in recommending schools start at 9:30 a.m.

“I’m not here to convince you,” Pelayo said. “I’m here to share information.”

Pelayo did recommend schools to delay start times.

“[Changing school start times] is not the only factor [in student sleep deprivation], but it’s the only modifiable factor,” Pelayo said.

Trudy Gross, FUHSD Director of Education and Special Services, was also in attendance. She will lead the newly founded district-wide committee: the Wellness Task Force.

Gross led the first Wellness Committee in district history in the 2006-2007 school year when laws regarding the food standard in schools were updated. Gross led a team to tailor cafeteria food to meet the new requirements.

Assigned to combat student sleep deprivation, the Wellness Task Force is prepared to have around 29 members from across the district. The plan is to include students, parents, teachers, classified staff and administrators from each of the five FUHSD schools.

“[Sleep deprivation] is not a new discussion,” Gross said. “It’s just we’re looking at creating a public engagement forum for it.”

Principals of FUHSD schools were asked to suggest involved parents, students and staff from their schools to join the Wellness Task Force, Gross said. Board member Jeff Moe will be the only board member on the committee.

“We’re really looking at having individuals who are present on their campus,” Gross said.  

Gross said she wants to make sure all areas of the school community have a voice in the committee. Therefore, guidance counselors who deal with scheduling, athletic directors, the student board representative and union negotiators will also be given spots on the committee.

“We want to make sure all stakeholder groups are represented,” Gross said.  

The committee’s first meeting took place on Monday. This meeting was used to give background sleep information to committee members and to finalize membership. Once the member list is set, it will be open to the public.

“Given that this is a public forum, I want to make sure that there’s a variety of ways for people to give their input,” Gross said.

The Wellness Task Force will meet monthly at the district office. They hope to make a decision about school start times by the end of 2017.

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