As school boards and administrations begin looking ahead to the 2016-2017 school year (can you believe it?!), the issue of school start times has been coming up frequently. Over the last few years many professionals – in both the education and medical fields – have tauted the benefits of later start times for students in middle school and high school. This has, of course, come under fire for the way it would impact elementary school start times, as well as extra-curricular activities.
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts two school districts have decided to give later start times a try. Citing data provided by the Academy of American Pediatrics and the CDC, the school committee in Barrington, Rhode Island – one of the top ranked districts in the state – elected to start both the middle school and high school at 8:30am. This move, which pushes the high school start time back by 50 minutes, will require an additional $400,000 per year in funding for school buses and other costs, but the school committee feels that it’s a worthwhile investment in their students.
In Newton, Massachusetts – again, one of the top ranked districts in that state – their school district is beginning to evaluate options for pushing school start times to as late as 9am for the city’s two high schools. This move would require a renegotiation with the district’s teachers’ union, as well as a separate plan to resolve a number of logistical issues that would arise from the change, including how the middle schools and elementary schools would be affected and issues with traffic congestion. The city may likely use the district in Duxbury, MA as a model – they pushed their high school start time to 8:15am (a 45 minute delay) back in 2009.
It seems that with each year that passes, more districts across the country are beginning to evaluate the benefits of starting school later for older students. Research shows that later start times reduce stress for students, and allow them to get an adequate amount of sleep. The thinking is that a later start time around 8:30 am will provide for a six-hour school day ending at 2:30pm. Extra-curricular activities would then be able to start by 3pm, end by 4:30 or 5:00pm, and still allow students plenty of time to get home and eat dinner, complete their homework, and get in a good night’s sleep.
That said, the logic behind a later start time only works if students are efficient with their responsibilities, and presuming that they don’t have an inordinate amount of homework to complete. In Barrington, RI, opponents of the later start time say that the real problem teenagers face isn’t with having to wake up too early, but with the fact that they go to bed too late because they’re awake doing homework until the small hours of the morning.
What do you think of school start times? Would you be in favor of a later start or do you think that the real issue lies with the amount of homework students are given? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook!