McLoughlin also said Alexandra is right and the points she raised are valid, based on “accumulating evidence.”

But he repeated it’s not something Southern Lehigh could do in isolation regardless of the opinion of the school board’s education committee.

Alexandra told the board high schools that start classes later in the morning have seen increased participation in sports and improved performance by their sports teams.

She said she realizes sports is a big part of Southern Lehigh’s culture, but suggested practice times can either start later or be held in the mornings before school starts. She also suggested student athletes be scheduled for study hall as their last class of the day during their sports seasons.

It’s not just an issue of high school athletics, said high school principal Christine Siegfried. “There are academic reasons as well.”

For example, Siegfried said such a change would impact schedules of Southern Lehigh students who attend Lehigh Career & Technical Institute.

She indicated changing school hours would have to be done by all nine public school districts in Lehigh County.

McLoughlin said the board’s education committee could investigate the matter and encourage other school districts to look into it.

“All the evidence backs up my proposal,” said Alexandra after the meeting. “This is a growing movement across the nation and I know it is just a matter of time before it is brought up again.”

Information she provided to the board before she spoke cites a National Sleep Institute study that found teenagers’ brains do not start releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone, until about 11 p.m. but continue producing it until well after sunrise. That’s why teens are often barely alert and want to fall back to sleep before 8 a.m.

“There is research that supports ‘the student clock’ so to speak,” confirmed the superintendent after the board meeting. “But changing a school district’s start time is not an easy venture.”

Just one example cited by Christman is that student athletes sometimes have to leave school by 2 or 2:15 p.m. to travel to “away games.” If school started later, she said, they would lose even more academic time – or all competing teams would have to agree to start games later.

The board presentation was not some academic exercise for Alexandra.

She said she was inspired to make it by a book titled “Dreamland; An Adventure in the Strange Science of Sleep,” written by David K. Randall. “I did not do this as a class assignment.”

The teenager is on Southern Lehigh’s speech and debate team and was one of 13 winning team members honored by the school board at the start of its meeting.

Most of her teammates hung around to hear her presentation to the board. They vigorously applauded her even before she spoke.

Other business

Also during the board meeting, Gunkle announced the retirements of three long-time district employees:

• Carol Mickley, principal of Lower Milford Elementary School, who is
retiring in August. She has served the district for 35 years.

• Caroline Frantz, library secretary at Liberty Bell Elementary
School, who is retiring July 1. She is a district employee for 25 years.

• Deborah Galle, an administrative assistant in the district’s
administration office, who is retiring June 30. She has been employed at Southern Lehigh for 27 years.