Newton goes back to the drawing board on high school start times

In Newton, a proposal to start the city’s high schools later in the day would be “impossible to implement” due to the anticipated increases in transportation costs, school officials said in an Oct. 3 letter to residents.

Instead, school officials are now developing a proposal for a new systemwide start time change that could include high schoolers, as well as elementary and middle school students, for a public review in spring of 2019, according to a letter posted to the Newton schools website by Superintendent David Fleishman and the Newton School Committee.

City education officials have considered later start times for high schoolers for the past few years in response to scientific evidence showing that it would be a benefit to student health.


In the spring of 2017, the School Committee supported a redesign of the high school schedule, which was developed more than 20 years ago, according to the letter. A joint high school committee began a review and evaluation of that schedule, which is expected to be completed this winter.

Those efforts focused on high school start times, and left the schedules of elementary and middle school students alone.

But the costs of having later start times for the high schoolers would be too much for the district to bear. Since 2016, busing costs have grown 20 percent, according to the letter, and those costs are expected to rise 5 percent each year.

Pushing back high school start times would require adding more buses, and that would increase costs by more than $1.1 million, the letter said.

The new review means that no start time change will be implemented for the 2019-2020 school year, according to the letter.

“While we are disappointed in this delay,’’ the letter stated, “we do believe that in order to ultimately be successful, we must move forward in a way that fully addresses the challenges unique to our city and to our district and is respectful of community input.”


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com