Newton is poised to begin later start times for the city’s two high schools this fall, after the School Committee on Monday supported a plan for students to begin classes at 9 a.m.
The plan, approved in a unanimous 9-0 vote, also shifts the start times for the city’s elementary and middle schools 10 minutes earlier to accommodate the changes for older students.
Implementation of the changes is expected to move ahead for the fall, pending completion of negotiations with the Newton Teachers Association, according to Toby Romer, assistant superintendent for secondary education and special programs. The association represents more than 2,000 teachers and other school employees.
Newton school officials spent years developing a plan for later start times, and their implementation was delayed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
School officials have repeatedly cited research indicating that teenagers benefit from later school start times because they need more sleep. The additional rest decreases stress and mental health concerns, according to the school department.
The high schools’ current schedule — created in response to the pandemic — begins at 9:15 a.m., and ends at 3:55 p.m., according to Romer. The later start for high schoolers has led to clear benefits to student wellness, according to the school department, including improved sleep patterns, academic preparedness, and overall well-being.
Under the plan approved Monday, Newton North and South high schools will begin at 9 a.m., with dismissals scheduled at 3:45 p.m. four days a week. School will be released early on Tuesdays, with dismissal scheduled at 3:25 p.m., according to the school department.
Before the pandemic, Newton South began school at 7:40 a.m., and North started at 7:50 a.m.
The average length of a high school day will be 6 hours and 41 minutes, according to the school department. Tuesdays will last 6 hours and 25 minutes, with the remaining days running 20 minutes longer.
The newly approved schedule for the fall will mean the average high school day will be shorter than the schools’ average pre-pandemic day, which had lasted 7 hours and 5 minutes.
The new high school days will offer a more efficient schedule “with less wasted time and more consistency,” Romer said in an e-mail. The new high school schedule will meet requirements for 990 hours of learning a year, according to the school department.
The changes also implement a redesigned daily schedule that replaces high school “X” and “J” blocks with “Flex blocks,” which allow students to take advantage of school offerings such as enrichment, extra support, and guided study, according to the department.
The schedule reduces the number of daily academic classes to cut down on the number of homework subjects each day. Each academic class will meet three times a week under the plan.
The plan also shifts the start times for elementary and middle school students.
All elementary schools are expected to start at 8:10 a.m., with a 2:50 p.m. dismissal four days a week. Middle school start times will range between 7:50 a.m. to 8:20 a.m., and dismissals from 2:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.
On Wednesday early release days, elementary students will be dismissed at 12:20 p.m. and middle schoolers between 1:35 p.m. and 2:05 p.m.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.