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Pediatricians urge district leaders to reconsider school bell changes

Concerns over proposed bell changes at schools
Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 24, 2017

A group of Hillsborough County pediatricians are urging school district leaders to reconsider proposed bell schedule changes, arguing it could lead to health problems.

The proposed changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2018-2019 school calendar.

High school students would go into school 18 minutes earlier, at 7:15 a.m.

District leaders say the earlier schedule would help get students to school on time by giving bus drivers more time in between their bus routes.

They also say it will allow for drivers to take on more shifts, taking away the need to hire more, saving the district millions of dollars.

Dr. Marcy Solomon Baker, a pediatrician in Tampa, says the earlier schedule will make it harder to students to go to sleep early enough to get the needed sleep that they need during their teen years.

"I will have kids come in and they're so tired they come in to make sure they're not anemic, their thyroids' okay," she said, "And really when you take a good look at what the history is, they're not getting enough sleep."

She’s a part of the Hillsborough County Pediatric Society who wrote a letter to the school board urging them to reconsider the changes.

More than 30 pediatricians signed the letter expressing their opposition to the new plan.

Tanya Arja, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough Co. School District, says the changes are necessary in order to ensure students get to school on time.

She says around 38 percent of high school student’s schedules won’t change with the changes and more than half of high school student’s bus schedules will only change 5-7 minutes.

However, Dr. Solomon Baker is concerned she’ll start to see more patients in her office who suffer from lack of sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep medicine announced earlier this month the best time for teens 13-18 to start school is 8:30 a.m, adding teens should get 8-10 hours of sleep a night.

School board members will discuss the time changes during a meeting on Tuesday where the superintendent plans to recommend waiting another year until the 2018-2019 academic calendar before putting the changes into effect.

“Saving money at the expense of our children’s health is unacceptable no matter what year it is done,” said Dr. Solomon Baker.