Should School Start Later?

Photo illustration by Caroline Ellervik ’18.

Finally, student complaints that school starts too early is getting support from the medical community—and Boston Public Schools are taking notice, with city officials discussing an 8:30 a.m. start time .

According to medical experts, the average amount of sleep most teenagers receive is 7-to-7.5 hours, while research suggests a need for 9-to-9.5 hours.

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,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Furthermore, the American Medical Association (AMA) supports middle schools and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. “While implementing a delayed school start time can be an emotional and potentially stressful issue for school districts, families, and members of the community, the health benefits for adolescents far outweigh any potential negative consequences,” says AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D.

For Brimmer and May, according to Director of Health Services Beth Escobar, a later start time makes sense. Adolescents only become tired later at night, she says. “When they wake up in the morning too early, they practically sleep through the first class, and that’s not good,” Escobar says.

“With regard to middle and upper school I think that for a lot of students the clock is different and your body needs to stay up later, when you wake up in the morning to early, you practically sleep through the first class and that is not good.”

Escobar also says that a later start time might even enhance a student’s athletic ability, making her more alert.

Assistant Head of Academic Affairs Joe Iuliano agrees, adding that the School should look into a later start time. “Currently, most of school start times are based on an adult time frame,” he says.  “I think it’s a great idea to look into a later start time, and I would love to see us do that here.”

Still, with a complex schedule to accommodate academics and athletics, change won’t come easy, Iuliano says, adding that it’s already challenging to find time and space for teams to practice. “We would also have to line our schedule with everyone we played against,” he says.

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