Lakeland picks early bell time for new school

New-LSS-logo-web-smallLakeland will keep its current 9 a.m. start time for the elementary school and use an 8 a.m. start-time for the new middle school. The school board was considering a change but decided against that in a split vote at a Dec. 1 special-called meeting.

The board's decision goes against the recommendation of their consultant, Dr. Valerie McLaughlin Crabtree, a licensed psychologist certified in behavioral sleep medicine. She advised choosing later start times for the middle-schoolers, based on extensive scientific research and recommendations by multiple national medical organizations. (See our Nov. 17 story detailing Crabtree's research and recommendations.)

The decision, however, matches the preferences expressed by both schools' principals and many Lakeland parents. Supporters noted that keeping the current elementary start time allows for minimal disruption of existing before- and after-school activities.

A survey of Lakeland parents showed a preference for the elementary school to keep the 9 a.m. start time. Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell said 367 people took the survey, with 61.1 percent preferring the early start time for Lakeland Middle Preparatory School (LMPS). He said 35.62 percent preferred the 9 a.m. start time for the middle school.

Of the respondents, 67 identified themselves as current LSS employees. Of those, 33 preferred the early start time for LMPS, 30 preferred the later start time for LMPS, and the remainder had no preference.

Board member Geoff Hicks was the sole vote against the decision, based on the medical evidence that teens are biologically predisposed to perform better in school with a later school start time.

He also said he believes Lakeland parents might have voted differently in the survey if they had been more informed. He also said about 550 households didn't participate in the survey.

Other board members, however, said that sleep study information about teens has been in the news prominently enough that parents who want to be informed on the topic could be well informed.

"This is a subject that has gotten a lot of attention locally, recently," said Kevin Floyd, board chairman.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to