Redlands public high schools should start later than 7:30 a.m.
Any parent of a teen can tell you first-hand what medical literature also states: Teens' body clocks are wired to stay up late and sleep late. Schools that start so early do a disservice to the teens they are trying to educate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: “Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance.”
In August 2014, the Academy issued a policy statement recommending that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. The Academy found that “the evidence strongly suggests that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among American adolescents.”
The National Sleep Foundation also has documented research on the body clocks of teens and the connection between teen sleep deprivation and early school start times. Teens’ biology causes them to function better later at night and to need to sleep later in the morning. The Foundation supports a later school start time for teens.
So does at least one member of Congress. As early as 1999, California Representative Zoe Lofgren introduced a congressional resolution (the so-called ZZZ’s to A’s Act) to encourage school agencies to move secondary school start times later than 9 a.m. A bill that Representative Lofgren introduced in 2014 states that Congress has found that “Numerous local educational agencies have recently changed or are considering changing school start times in an effort to improve adolescent health, well-being, and performance.”
Redlands should follow the recommendation of these experts and take the initiative locally to move high school start times to 8:30 a.m. Teens don’t sleep late because they’re lazy; they sleep late because of biology.
Bus schedules are not an impediment to changing the high schools' start time. Those without high-school students in their households might be surprised to learn that there is no school bus service for high school students in our district.
Students and their parents are on their own to arrive on campus by 7:20. Now think about 16- and 17-year-old new drivers driving themselves to school at 7:15 in the morning—those sleep-deprived teens should not be racing to school at that hour. Late start might begin to sound more appealing to anyone in the community out and about at that time.
Clubs abound at all of the high schools, and many students carve out time in their busy schedules to participate. But most clubs meet at lunchtime -- not after school -- so club meetings would not be affected by a later start time.
The tricky part of changing the high school start time is athletics. Practices and games often start not long after the current school day ends. For away games and matches, athletes are dismissed about an hour before the final bell rings.
Sports would need to start one hour later if school starts one hour later. A bad idea would be to start school later but keep the current sports schedule. This would mean that student-athletes would need to miss an additional hour of academics on game days. Student-athletes are already trying to cope with the demands of balancing school and sport. Let's not make it any harder for them by making them miss more class time.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “most districts that have changed their start time have experienced few problems with regard to athletics.
Redlands would need to be the trailblazer in showing other high schools in its Citrus Belt League that late start benefits teens and anyone who works and lives with teens.
Nationally about 15 percent of U.S. high schools start after 8:30 a.m.; 40 percent start before 8 a.m. We are in the 10 percent that wants students on campus before 7:30 a.m. ”
The public high schools in Redlands do start at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays to accommodate a weekly staff meeting. So late start can work, and high school and district administrators know it.
Data on teen health and safety support starting school later as a good idea. But improvements in attendance, behavior and test scores would mean that late start would benefit the school and RUSD administration as well as students.
The RUSD School Board and administration should consider revising its policy and practice on high school start time and begin school at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m.
Teens would be more alert and might achieve more. And that’s what it’s all about.
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