Group takes time zone debate to state educators

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A group that wants all of Indiana to move into the Central time zone is again taking its push to the State Board of Education, armed with a report that says schoolchildren are being harmed by the decades-long embrace of the Eastern time zone and its adoption of daylight saving time.

Central Time Coalition President Sue Dillon told the board Wednesday that students in the 80 counties that observe Eastern time are at risk in the fall and winter months, when they must wait for school buses in the morning darkness or half-light. She said students’ academic performance can also suffer because they’re often sleepy from having to awaken generally one hour earlier than their Central time zone counterparts.

“It definitely affects their education,” Dillon told The Associated Press on Thursday. “It’s all based on the sunlight. We are creatures of the sunlight and our biological clocks and circadian rhythm are all tied to this.”

Dillon became involved in the time zone issue in 2009 after a 15-year-old student in Carmel was struck and killed by a bus on a dark January morning.

Most of Indiana moved in the mid-1960s from Central time to Eastern time to bring it in sync with East Coast financial centers and live television broadcasts. But Dillon said the state’s adoption of daylight saving time nearly a decade ago has worsened the time zone impact on students.

She delivered a 60-page report to board members detailing Eastern time’s impact on Indiana’s schools. It includes an August policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that says studies show early start times deprive youngsters of sleep, harm academic performance, leave them prone to depression and cause other problems.

The academy’s report recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class until at least 8:30 a.m. to align school schedules to adolescents’ biological sleep rhythms.

Dillon said sunrise can be as late as 8:15 a.m. in the winter in Eastern time counties, meaning many students will have been awake nearly three hours before the sun rises.

Student safety during dark mornings has long been a concern in Eastern Pulaski Community Schools, a small northwestern Indiana school district that’s in the Eastern time zone. Superintendent Dan Foster said some of the district’s nearly 1,300 students must walk to bus stops in cold, dark weather. Foster also said he must periodically call one-hour school delays when it’s foggy or roads are icy because the darkness makes it too risky for buses to travel rural roads.

“And those delays are not generally made up, so there’s some lost instruction time there. That’s a little frustrating when the state puts so much emphasis on the assessments our kids are under right now,” he said.

This is the second straight year the Central Time Coalition has made a presentation to the State Board of Education, said Lou Ann Baker, spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence’s Center for Education and Career Innovation. Baker said the board would review the new report, but stressed that issues pertaining to time zone rest with the state Legislature.

While most of Indiana’s 92 counties are on Eastern time, 12 in the state’s southwestern and northwestern corners are on Central time.

 

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