Should Schools Rethink Start Times? - NECN
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Should Schools Rethink Start Times?



    A Boston city councilor is pushing to adjust high school start times. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016)

    A Boston city councilor is pushing to adjust high school start times.

    Most teens don't get enough sleep with hours of homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs on their plate.

    "I'm getting six hours of sleep a night if I'm lucky, and I've fallen asleep in school several times already this year," Diego Rao, a junior at Boston Latin School, told necn.

    It can be hard for high schoolers to get the recommended eight hours of sleep when the school bell rings at 7:20 a.m. Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George has a possible solution for the city's 30 public high schools.

    "I'd love to see school start times for our high schools pushed to 8 a.m.," said George.

    George is taking a page out of Eastham, Massachusetts, where high school students were given an extra hour of sleep. Tardiness there fell by 35 percent, and the number of F and D grades dropped by half.

    "Let's work on those minutes for kids that need that extra sleep in order for them to have a successful academic experience," George said.

    Doctors say the science supports her push.

    "With puberal onset, kids have their circadian rhythms moved later, and so they become defacto night owls," said Dr. Judith Owens, a pediatrician. "Their natural fall asleep time and wake time shifts."

    That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends high schools start at 8:30 a.m. to avoid major health risks like chronic sleep loss. But only 11.5 percent of all public middle and high schools in Massachusetts follow that guideline.

    "We're simply changing the time. We're not changing bus routes, we're not adding bus routes, we're simple shifting the times," George said.

    Some teens and parents say it's not that simple.

    "I don't believe that it needs to be pushed back to 8 a.m. because a lot of people need to work," said Ravi Rao, a senior at the O'Bryant School.

    "Of course for teenagers, the priority is to sleep. But then for parents, the priority may be having dinner together, so you have to juggle those," said mother Maria Rodrigues.

    On October 17 at 3 p.m., high school students, parents, teachers and doctors will testify at Boston City Hall about those start times. The hearing will officially put the issue on the table and get the conversation going.

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