Maine School District Pushes Back Start Times for Students

From the school bus, to the school bell, don’t be alarmed that the morning routine is starting later in South Portland, Maine. It’s the latest school district to push back start times for students, giving them 35-40 minutes extra minutes in the morning to sleep.

"There was a lot of support for making the change," said Superintendent Ken Kunin. South Portland Middle School students are now starting their school day 35 minutes later, at 8:30 a.m., and high schoolers start 40 minutes later, at 8:10 a.m.

"I think it does make a difference, being able to sleep more," said sixth grade student Megan Dearborn.

"Sleep is one of those things we've lost track of as a society, and it’s even more important for kids," said parent Patrick Cyr.

Some students say they aren’t seeing the benefits yet.

"It's frustrating to go to school later – I mean our parents are just going to wake us up at the same time anyway," said Gavin McGillicuddy.

"After school I have stuff to do, and the later time gives me less time to get ready for that," said Sophie Delenick.

The superintendent said the evidence from scientific journals and the Center for Disease Control was overwhelming: adolescents are sleep deprived, and need to start school later in the day to improve health and academic performances.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high school students start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Kunin said these changes do pose a challenge in transportation. There is now less time between middle and high school bus routes, so they have had to consolidate bus stops to make the routes more efficient. Some students may have to walk further to get to their stops.

According to a new study by the Rand Corporation, school districts implementing later school start times should expect to pay $150 more per student per year for adjusted bus routes.

"It's absolutely worth the investment," said Kunin. "We want better results for our kids, better physical health, better mental health, and better academic outcomes."

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