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Rise and shine . . . later PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 18:29

An influential physicians group warns that the health and learning ability of adolescent students are being hurt by starting school too early in the morning

Starting school early in the morning does nothing to help students learn. On the contrary, new studies say it can undermine learning ability and even the health of students, particularly adolescents.

    Schools start early, even though that means most students are finished with classes by early or mid-afternoon, for such non-academic reasons as accommodating bus transportation schedules and athletic practice demands and perhaps even parents’ work schedules.


    Early starting times are the norm around the country for public high schools and middle schools. Among Ozaukee County schools, the high school and middle schools starting times of 7:25 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. in the Port Washington-Saukville School District are typical.


    For the students, especially those who have to be ready for a school-bus pickup, this means an early wake-up call.


    Last week the American Academy of Pediatricians issued an unusually direct and forceful  policy statement urging that high schools and middle schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. so that students can get enough sleep.


    The AAP cited data showing that adolescents who start school earlier than that get less than the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep they need, with negative impact on their health and academic performance.

    Researchers say adolescents have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. due to changes in their circadian, or 24-hour, rhythms. The increasing demands on students of homework and the need to be active in extracurricular activities to enhance resumes for college acceptance detract further from the available sleeping hours.

    A study by the University of Minnesota sponsored by Centers for Disease Control, one of the research projects cited by the pediatricians organization, compared the academic performance, attendance, mental health and even car accident records of 9,000 students at schools with various starting times. They found a clear association: The later the school starting times, the better the students were in all categories.


    Besides bringing benefits scientifically proven by numerous studies, starting the school day later passes the logic test. There’s something skewed about rousing students from their beds at 6-6:30 a.m. to start a school day that ends around 2:30-3 p.m.


    No doubt, school scheduling is complex and managing transportation costs and satisfying the demands of athletic programs can’t be ignored. But ranking those needs ahead of the health of students, particularly as it affects their academic performance, can’t be defended.


    For that reason, a number of school districts in various parts of the country are assessing the cost and logistical issues of changing to later starting times.


    The school districts of Ozaukee County need to move in the same direction. The latest studies and the strong statement by the highly respected American Academy of Pediatricians leaves no doubt that is the right thing to do.

 
Crumbling roads in the countryside PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 18:49

Town governments are responsible for half the roads in the state; the Town of Grafton needs voters’ OK to finally meet its obligation

Town government is sometimes perceived as simple, even quaint, with governing boards as small as three members and, in a throwback to the early days of the American democracy, the use of town hall meetings at which residents gather each year to vote on the tax levy.

    The perception shortchanges the importance of towns. Nearly one-third of Wisconsin residents are governed by towns. More than 95% of the land in Wisconsin is located in the state’s 1,259 towns. Roughly half of the public roads in the state are maintained by towns.


    That town government is neither simple nor easy was demonstrated with considerable drama this year when the Town of Saukville government suffered an epic meltdown with the virtually simultaneous resignations of the town chairman, a supervisor and the town clerk.


    Order has been restored in rural Saukville; as of last week, all of the town government positions are filled. Meanwhile, the Town of Grafton, somewhat tardily, is facing up to one of the most vexing complications of town government—funding road maintenance.


    The Town Board on Aug. 13 voted to hold a referendum asking voters to approve increased spending for road repair. The move is overdue, for the Town of Grafton has the distinction of being responsible for several roads vying for the title of being in the worst state of disrepair of any in Ozaukee County. Falls Road is an outstanding example.


    Crumbling roads are not the sort of signs of neglect expected to be found in an area like the Town of Grafton. Its government has been effective in dealing with a number of challenges, including serial annexations of town land by the Village of Grafton. Its board and chairman have been leaders among local governments, municipal and town, in Ozaukee County on environmental issues.


    In other ways too, the Town of Grafton does not fit the image of a place where to drive can mean to run a gantlet of broken pavement, potholes and chassis-shuddering bumps. No longer an agricultural enclave, the town has replaced farms with upscale subdivisions. It’s ironic that the traffic generated by this high-valuation development travels on roads that are probably in worse shape than they were when they were used by tractors pulling manure spreaders and hay wagons.


    It’s come to this, of course, because the town doesn’t have the money to fix the roads. Critics might fault the Town Board’s spending priorities, but the main culprit here is the tax levy limits imposed by the state Legislature. The chest-thumping in Madison over the benefits of such tax freezes ignores the fact that they hamstring local governments such as the Town of Grafton in carrying out one of their fundamental responsibilities—the essential maintenance of public infrastructure, particularly roads.


    To fix its roads, the town will have to exceed the levy limit, which will require the OK of the voters in the November referendum. The question of whether the town should spend an additional $125,000 a year to catch up with years of deferred road maintenance deserves a yes from voters so their town government can meet its obligation to keep town roads safe to use.


    Come November, anyone driving to the polls on Falls Road is advised to use caution.


 
Save our Y PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 16:23

A bankruptcy court has failed to recognize the stake held by contributors to the Saukville YMCA; now hope for keeping the institution open rests on fundraising

Bankruptcy courts are charged with the responsibility to balance the interests of creditors and debtors in distributing the assets of failed enterprises.

    Unfortunately the Ozaukee County residents who contributed millions of dollars in cash and valuable land to build the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville and provided financial and volunteer support for its operation for 15 years do not belong to either group and are facing the possibility of being left without the institution to which they’ve given so much when the bankruptcy of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee is settled.

    The U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday ordered the Saukville YMCA sold at auction to the highest bidder. Ozaukee Press sources indicate that as many as three companies operating for-profit fitness centers in the Milwaukee area may be among the bidders. If a private company is the successful bidder, the Saukville facility could be shut down before the end of September.

    That would be a profound injustice, one that could have been avoided if the court had accepted an offer made by the Kettle Moraine YMCA that would have provided $2 million for the Metropolitan YMCA’s creditors and ensured that the Saukville YMCA remained open.

    Selling the facility at auction is a cruel turn because it threatens the prospect of it going where it belongs, into the Kettle Moraine organization, where it would find not only rescue from the Metropolitan YMCA’s financial disaster, but an expectation of a secure future.

    Unlike the Metropolitan YMCA, which has imploded under the weight of an astonishing $30 million in debt, Kettle Moraine, based in nearby West Bend, is on firm financial footing, is currently debt free and owns first-rate facilities. What’s more, its board of directors has adopted a sound business plan for a merger with the Saukville YMCA that includes a role for representatives of the latter on the board that would guide the combined operation.


    The Feith Y had no such role under the ownership of the Metropolitan YMCA and is thus an innocent victim of the Milwaukee organization’s fiscal management failures.                     The court’s auction decision is a setback, but Kettle Moraine, with strong support from the Feith YMCA board of directors, is not giving up. It had planned to finance $1.5 million of the purchase price with bank loans and cover the remaining $500,000 through fundraising. Now it is mounting a desperate effort to raise $1 million to make an offer of as much as $2.5 million.

    It should not have come to this. The court should have recognized that the thousands of families that have memberships in the Saukville Y and the contributors who paid for most of its construction costs and generously supported its operation have a valid stake in the outcome of the bankruptcy proceedings and approved the initial Kettle Moraine offer to prevent the loss of the essential community asset the Feith YMCA has become.

    If the Saukville Y dies as a result of its owner’s bankruptcy, it can be chalked up as another failure of the Metropolitan organization to support this community’s YMCA. When the bankruptcy petition was filed, Metropolitan CEO Julie Tolan said that the Saukville facility and other suburban Ys earmarked for sale would be sold to “operators better positioned to continue those Ys and invest in those centers for the long term.”

    The Kettle Moraine YMCA fits the description of those operators. Private corporations that would operate the facilities as a for-profit fitness center without YMCA affiliation do not.

    The people of Ozaukee County served by the Saukville YMCA can help save their Y by supporting the fundraising effort with pledges that will be used by Kettle Moraine as collateral for increased borrowing.

    To reach $1 million, large gifts by corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals will be needed, but a strong response of small contributions will help the cause not only financially, but also by demonstrating that the people of Ozaukee want, need and deserve their YMCA.

    Which, of course, is absolutely true.



 
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