Column: New start times, mental health initiatives to start in new school year

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Commentary by Supt. Beth Niedermeyer

At Noblesville Schools, we’re committed to providing students social/emotional support to best ensure their success in school. As we welcome students back Aug. 1, I’d like to share enhancements we’ve made relative to this. 

A key change is our newly adjusted school day. Starting this year, our elementary schools will be in session 7:50 a.m. to 2:35 p.m., and our secondary schools will be in session 8:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. While this will be an adjustment for all, it’s clear that making this change is in the best interest of students’ physical and emotional health.

Other districts who have adjusted their schedules to allow for a later start, for secondary students have reported academic gains and increased attentiveness as well as decreased rates of depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, obesity, automobile accidents, disciplinary referrals and drug/alcohol use. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard, Yale and others cite the benefits of a later school day for adolescents and the research is compelling.

In addition to the adjusted school day, we’ve implemented many other enhancements during the past 24 months designed to enhance the physical and emotional well-being of students and staff.

For example, we’ve hired new staff, including mental health and counseling coordinators, social workers and additional school counselors, to boost our resources, development, planning and oversight of social and emotional well-being initiatives for all students.

We’ve also grown our partnerships with professional mental health organizations and implemented mental health initiatives, like our focus on social/emotional brain science in the classroom and additional support services for students facing adversity.

There are many more mental health improvements we’ve made and I’d encourage you to reference the comprehensive list by visiting bit.ly/2YlAAPO.

Best wishes to all our students, families and staff members as we kick off a happy, healthy and productive 2019-20 school year.

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