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Greenport, Oysterponds explore new class start times

Students at Greenport High School may get to sleep in a little later on school days.

That is the suggestion of Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg. Mr. Gamberg met with members of the Greenport and Oysterponds school boards Tuesday to discuss pushing the start of classes at the high school back 30 minutes. He also suggested Oysterponds Elementary School students start roughly 30 minutes earlier. At Greenport High School, the first bell rings at 7:45 a.m., and students are released at 2:25 p.m.

Mr. Gamberg presented articles and studies that linked earlier school start times with lower grades and negative mental health impacts. He cited a Sept. 20 New York Times article that stated attendance rises, grades improve and car accidents decrease when schools transition to a later start time and students get more sleep.

“Earlier this year, what started to catch my attention was not only the frequency of newspaper articles and journal articles, but the fact that it went beyond academic performance that is potentially enhanced just by allowing teenagers to sleep a little later,” he said. “It could make a world of difference not only in their academic performance, but in their mental health.”

Members asked about the difficulties other districts have faced while transitioning to a later start time and how the change could impact day-to-day operations. One concern was how it could affect the bus schedule from BOCES to Greenport High School and other area high schools since there are limited buses to transport all North Fork students to the vocational high school’s campuses up island.

An integral part of the proposal would be rescheduling bus times for Greenport, Southold and Mattituck-Cutchogue high schools, Mr. Gamberg said, adding that he has reached out to other Suffolk County school districts about making the change.

He said 15 district representatives across the county have followed up with him. Some of these districts voiced interest while others said they had previously tried, but there were too many obstacles. He did not disclose which districts he spoke with on the matter.

“The districts that I want the feedback from are the neighboring districts,” Mr. Gamberg said Thursday. “Those districts which are most closely related to busing, and that kind of thing.”

Mr. Gamberg, who is also the Southold School District superintendent, said the Southold School Board was “clearly interested” in considering a later start time.

“This is just the starting point to see where this takes us, no promises, and clearly a lot of obstacles along the way,” he said. There are no finalized plans for the proposal.

Board member Linda Goldsmith suggested the change won’t do much to bridge the disconnection between Greenport, Oysterponds and other districts.

“That’s my pet peeve,” Ms. Goldsmith said, “That all the times are different, and the calendars are always different, and we all need to get on the same page. It’s crazy. There’s definitely a lot more that needs to be considered.”

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Photo caption: Members of the two school boards discussed the idea of changing school start times. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

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