The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Mark your calenders! 2024 is a year for a new start

Learn about the newest updates for later start times in LMSD.

On March 20, 2023, the LMSD School Board voted 7-2 to approve a district wide change to school start times beginning in fall of 2024 for the 2024-2025 school year.

Elementary school will start last, at 9:20 a.m, and end at 3:50 p.m. Middle school will begin earliest, at 8:00 a.m, and end at 2:50 p.m. There is also a possibility of an even earlier start time for middle school in order to ensure there is enough bussing available for elementary school to end before four o’clock.

The high school day will run from 8:40 a.m to 3:30 p.m. The day will begin an hour and ten minutes later and end fifty minutes later, with a twenty minute reduction in the length of the school day. The school board hopes to make up for this gap by shorten- ing the length of passing periods between classes.

According to the LMSD district website, the new schedule will “better align start times with teens’ sleep patterns” and improve the health and wellbeing of adolescent students. Currently, high schools begin at 7:30 a.m, followed by middle schools at 8:15 a.m. and elementary schools at 9:00 a.m.

The plan accepted by the board in March differed slightly from the originally proposed plan, moving the elementary school end time fifteen minutes ear- lier in the day and keeping the elementary school end time before 4:00 p.m. The accepted proposal also requires the district to provide before-school childcare to elementary school families, as well as support for staff transitioning to a new schedule.

Graphic by Annie Zhao ’24/Staff

This plan fails to meet the American Medical Society recommendation that middle and high school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. However, with the new proposal, LMSD hopes to address challenges faced by elementary school families and high school students involving extracurricular activities, jobs, and the time required for transportation amid a bus driver shortage. The new schedule also poses challenges for students attending Montco Technical School, the vocational program available for LMSD students, which currently has the same schedule as LMSD and will not be changing its start times. Due to this, LM students involved in the program will have to miss additional classes or begin school earlier than their peers.

The board chose to delay the implementation of later school start times until 2024, instead of the previously proposed date of September 2023. This decision aims to allow more time to fine tune the logistics of implementing a schedule shift. Current start times will remain for the 2023-2024 school year.

The move to delay to 2024 has angered and disappointed some students and families, who argue that the district is pushing back necessary action to protect the health of students. Junior Dylan Spivack, a student advocate for later school start times, feels “incredibly angry that the board chose to delay healthy school start times until 2024. They have been researching and trying to figure this out for years and years, it is possible to make the change for next year…I do not only think that the later start times will help LM students, but due to the science I am 100% positive it will help the students…I tried my hardest to change the start times for 2023, but the board did not listen to me or the other students who begged for the change.”

Meanwhile, some students are worried about the impact the change will have on their lives out- side of school. Junior Cate Bellaria says, “I don’t like how it affects after school activities because it’ll make us stay so late, and I may not be able to participate to the fullest…Changing start times means making a lot of kids choose between after school extracurriculars, their family, mental health, jobs, etc.”

Bellaria is glad the district is planning to delay until 2024, and believes, “we just need to take more time to think of a plan that benefits ALL of LM, instead of rushing into this potentially destructive plan. This isn’t the time to be implementing these huge new changes at a time of such unease with COVID-19 just ending, teachers being burnt out, and so many other issues—we just need more stability.” Others, like sophomore Gwen O’Bannon, acknowledge these challenges while eagerly anticipating the new schedule. “I know some people have schedules based on what we have right now, but I also think that change should be welcomed,” they said.

More details on implementation will be released at the upcoming school board meetings on May 8 and June 20. In the meantime, students are left to debate the outcomes of the Board’s decisions and speculate on what’s to come.

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