BOSTON (CBS) – A drive to push back school start times in Massachusetts is crossing paths with a study on the merits of changing Massachusetts to a different time zone.
An advocacy group presented the legislature with a petition filled with thousands of signatures last week, asking the state legislature to pass a law requiring middle schools and high schools to reset school start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
The petition drive is fueled by concerns that teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep, and that showing up at school, sometimes as early as 7:30, harms academic performance and physical development.
At the same time, the state has a commission studying the possibility of switching Massachusetts from the Eastern to the Atlantic time zone. That group heard testimony from a pediatric sleep specialist who said that school start times would have to be moved back if a time zone change is made.
In April, the Maine legislature voted to switch to the Atlantic Time Zone if Massachusetts and other New England states would do the same.
The State House News Service reported in March that the chair of the Massachusetts commission studying the time zone switch said “the information the panel has gathered so far is ‘really pointing in the direction’ of a change that would keep Massachusetts on Eastern Daylight Time year-round.”
“I think the jury’s still out, but I will tell you the direction that the hearings are going and all the experts are presenting really are raising serious, serious questions as to why we’re flipping clocks twice a year,” Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-1st Middlesex, said.
One reason that some oppose changing time zones is the prospect of children waiting for a school bus in the dark.
Gov. Charlie Baker has indicated that he is not in favor of changing time zones.
Currently, parts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in the Atlantic Time Zone.