By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
NORTHBOROUGH/SOUTHBOROUGH — When Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) students start the year tomorrow they will start the school day 40 minutes later than they had in past years.
Before this year, the high school started classes at 7:20 a.m. and ended at 1:50 p.m.
After years of examining the issue, the ARHS school day will now begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.
Superintendent Gregory Martineau said ARHS’ start time had been 7:20 a.m. for “decades.”
“Algonquin Regional High School has one of the earlier start times of high schools in Central Mass,” Martineau said.
The process to change the start time dated back to 2014 when a parent group expressed interest in having the district study the impacts of later start times on children’s academics and social and emotional wellbeing.
Some of the results of the study group’s work, Martineau said, indicated that better sleep led to better academic performance, fewer sports injuries, students being less involved in car accidents and reduced rates of depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use.
“What we couldn’t sort out was really how do we make this work from an operational standpoint,” Martineau said.
The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough is made up of three school districts and 10 schools. Each district has its own bus contract, though the buses themselves are shared, Martineau said.
He estimated that the district has about 32 buses. So, it was difficult to make this change work without impacting the other schools’ start times.
The district convened another start time task force during the 2019-2020 school year. It found a solution, which was unanimously supported by the school committee when it was presented to them last year, Martineau said.
In addition to changes at the high school, Southborough’s Neary school will start at 8:45 a.m. Woodward will start at 8:55 a.m., while the Finn school will start at 9:10 a.m.
The only school which will have an earlier start time is Trottier Middle School which moved from 8:03 a.m. to 7:50 a.m.
All of the start times at Northborough schools will remain unchanged.
Martineau said there used to be a gap at ARHS between when classes ended and when athletes’ practices began. That wait time will be shorter, he said.
“It was a cost-neutral solution. So, we didn’t have to increase our transportation contract as a result of changing the start times,” Martineau said.
Over the past year, the district worked on preparing to implement the plan for this school year.
Now, that school year is here.