Should we revisit our school starting times?


Several years ago, the district did a preliminary study on the benefits of switching to a later daily starting time along with some of the attitudes of students, parents and staff towards the idea. There did not appear at the time sufficient support to move forward on switching to a later starting time but more and more health and education officials are clamoring for it, with study after study now showing the positive effects of school bells aligning more with student sleep cycles, particularly at the middle and high school levels.

I’d like to share the following links so that you can be informed of the value and inherent obstacles of changing to a later start time.

Students find more awareness with later starts…

So in a state where most high schools start before 8 a.m., Nauset school officials in 2012 did the unthinkable: They pushed their start time back to 8:35 a.m., giving students an extra hour to sleep in.

The results were instantaneous, administrators say. More students showed up to school refreshed. Tardiness fell by 35 percent, and the number of Ds and Fs dropped by half.

Now, several high schools across Massachusetts are exploring whether to follow suit. The push for later start times is emerging in such districts as Belmont, Boston, Masconomet, Mashpee, Newton, and Wayland. The state Legislature is considering a bill to study the issue statewide.…

In more than 40 states, at least 75 percent of public schools start earlier than 8:30 a.m., according to the CDC’s report. And while later start times won’t replace other important interventions—like parents making sure their children get enough rest—schools clearly play an important role in students’ daily schedules, the report concluded.…

The changes are a culmination of a yearslong campaign by parents, teachers and sleep scientists, who advocated for changing school start times to better match teens’ biological clocks. The Seattle teachers union supported the changes.

“The proposal to change bell times is the result of a research-based community initiative,” the union said. “It will improve learning, health and equity for thousands of Seattle students.”…

Classes should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., there should be a minimum of 11 hours between the end of the last scheduled school-sponsored activity and the start of school the next day, and homework needs to be limited.


About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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