Later school time is trending

Tech Talk Tuesday #83: Later school time is trending… What do you think?

School is back in session. For most of us, that means early mornings and sleepy kids. The national average start time for American public high schools is 7:59 a.m., with some starting as early as 7:00 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  My son just did his last two years of high school in New York and his start time was 7:05 a.m. Why so early?

One reason for early start times is busing. School districts were under financial strain and cut buses to save money. Districts doubled their routes with fewer buses. One bus would pick up high schoolers very early, drop them off, then go back out and pick up elementary and middle school  students later in the morning. Bigger fleets would allow for ALL students to have later start times.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) all say later start times are vital for the health and well-being of pre-teens and teens.

We also know that late night screen use is contributing to big sleep problems with our kids.  A recent UCSF study found that “as smartphone use increased – particularly around bedtime - sleep duration and quality decreased.”

In their 2014 position paper on later school start times, the AAP says, “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 … Getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.—and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day." Melatonin is secreted in teenagers later in the night when compared to younger and older people which explains why adolescents naturally might want to go to bed late.

We just moved back to Seattle, and my daughter starts high school here this week. She is very excited that Seattle is one of the largest school districts to institute later start times. Lisa, my co-producer, has a daughter who started high school last week and her school also has a later start time.  Of course, the concern for many is how to make sure the day doesn’t push out after school activities.  At Lisa’s daughter’s school, they did several things including shortening some of the passing periods from 20 minutes to 10 minutes and ending school about 15 minutes later most days.  So far, Lisa’s daughter is rising easily and rested, but she is complaining that she feels rushed getting from class-to-class and misses having more social time at school.

It will be interesting to see how later start times affects our household. For Tech Talk Tuesday this week let’s talk about what our kids think about later start times.

  1. What would be the ideal time to start school?

  2. What are your concerns about a later start time?

  3. How are you affected when you don’t get good sleep? Do you notice changes in your mood, hunger, patience, concentration, etc.

  4. How would you feel about being off screens 1 hour before bedtime? (which is shown to improve sleep)

  5. If you knew that all screens were to be put away at a certain time at night—so homework could not be done past this time (say 10 or so)—would that help you more efficiently manage your study time?