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N.Y. School Keeps Early Start Time

May 19, 1999

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. (AP) _ Taxpayers voted down a proposition that would have allowed high schoolers to get 40 extra minutes of sleep each morning.

By 2,142 to 1,898, voters in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district in northern Westchester refused Tuesday to spend $1.33 million for new buses that would have enabled the high school to delay its starting time from 7:15 a.m. to 7:55 a.m.

Some sleep experts said forcing adolescents to get up at about 5:30 a.m. ignores their natural body rhythms and hurts their performance. Several school districts around the country have moved away from early start times.

Many parents also objected to having their children wait for buses in the cold and dark on winter school days.

``It’s just common sense,″ said Sharon Ballen, also of Katonah. ``Children shouldn’t be standing with flashlights at bus stops.″

Since 1992, when state aid was cut back and some buses were sold off, students have been crawling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to wait for buses that serve first the high school, then elementary and middle schools. At John Jay School some students have to eat lunch shortly after 9 a.m.

Opponents noted that the schools are already high-achieving.

``They’re sitting in calculus or advanced-placement bio at 7:15 in the morning,″ said Superintendent Karen McCarthy. ``At 9:30 they’re eating spaghetti or pizza, God help us.″

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