Committee recommends delayed high school start time

Directors of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board plan to vote on the creation of a new permanent Wellness Committee next week. The board agreed to put it to a vote during its Aug. 8 work session after being briefed on the recommendations of the temporary committee.

That temporary committee comprised 33 members, including Superintendent of Schools John Sanville, three current board members, several teachers, administrators and parents. Rudy Reif, the assistant principal at Unionville High School chaired the committee and briefed the board.

Reif said the recommendations include forming a standing Wellness Committee to be modeled after the Curriculum Council, which meets quarterly to discuss curriculum issues. Once formed, the committee would develop its mission, vision and goals.

Sanville said the committee would “morph into a wellness council.”

Chief among the other recommendations is that the district move to a delayed start time for high school students. Included in that recommendation would be to have an earnest investigation for a delayed start time and to have Board Vice President Jeff Hellrung and Assistant Superintendent Ken Batchelor co-chair a Delayed School Start Committee.

Several groups within Chester County School districts have been examining studies on later start times for high school students and are in favor of making that move. Hellrung has already said he favors making the change.

Board member Michael Rock said he is strongly in favor of establishing a permanent Wellness Committee, and equally in favor of the later start time.

He said he had found a study from England that measured the difference in test scores between boys and girls.

“By shifting from no morning classes to only afternoon classes almost eliminated the test gap difference,” he said.

That extreme a change has not been suggested, however. What is under consideration is having high school start an hour later.

Rock added that he would like to see the committee include something on diversity.

“I know our district is not very diverse, but the world in which our kids are going to go out to at the college and university level, at the employment level is increasingly diverse,” Rock said. “I wonder if we should do something with our students to prepare them to cope with that increasingly diverse world.”

He noted that one of the recommendations said the district should reach out to churches, but Rock said that should also include synagogues, mosques and Quaker meetinghouses.

“We need to broaden our perspective on this. I would really like to see us do something around wellness on diversity.” He said.

Board member Elise Anderson, a member of the Wellness Committee, said the recommendations of the committee can “elevate the level of success we foster in the children in the district.”

Reif said there are a number of other recommendations from the committee. A full list from his presentation may be found on the district’s website here.

Among those other recommendations are promoting grit and resilience, emotional intelligence, unlocking individual potential and creating an atmosphere “where our kids feel safe — where they can trust.”

Other recommendations include parent and professional development.

Sanville added that as part of a speaker series for parents, the district is having a community read on “How to Raise an Adult,” by author Julie Lythcott-Haims. The author is a former dean at Stanford University.

Sanville said she’d be at Unionville High School on Feb. 23. She’ll talk to students during the day and have a presentation for parents that evening.

The board’s next regular meeting will be Monday, Aug. 15 in the district office.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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