I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sleep schedules. With the upcoming birth of my husband and I’s first child, and having friends with young kids things like feeding and nap schedules are something I find myself reading about a lot. This semester my district also released a survey about proposed new start times for elementary, middle, and high school. All of this left me thinking about what time should school start?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high school students do not start before 8:30am. Most adolescents are not getting the amount of sleep that they need at night, which can lead to poor academic performance and health risks such as being overweight, not engaging in daily physical activity, suffering from symptoms of depression, using drugs and alcohol, and more. With the recommended start time it is interesting how uncommon it is to find schools that start at 8:30am or later. I researched neighboring school districts to my own and could not find one school that started at this time.
As I researched schools in the rural parts of the state I did find many schools with slightly later start times, typically around 8am not 7:30am or earlier as I found in the Phoenix metro area. There is a compound effect of the start times however. Many rural schools or schools in smaller towns do not operate Monday through Friday and have a four day week due to budget saving efforts. If a day is taken out of the school week it is more difficult for a school to have later start times because it begins to get too late in the afternoon as well.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have studied school start times at a national level and found only two states, Alaska and North Dakota had a majority of schools that began at 8:30am or later, regardless of level of schooling. Arizona’s average time is 8:03am, not the earliest state (Louisiana at 7:40am) but earlier then the suggested time. Click here if you are interested in looking at the average school start times by state.
When considering school start times its important to consider the driving factors behind how the start times are set. Are they based on community activities and schedules, time zones changes based on the seasons, weather considerations such as when it is too hot or too cold for school sports?
So, how can you help support your child at home:
- Advocate for later start times if you feel strongly that this would help your student and others, please keep in mind one of the ways districts set their bell schedules is based on transportation and scheduling of after/before school events
- Set a media curfew, screens and the blue light from LED will disrupt student’s natural body rhythms, it is best to use these during day time hours only
- Dim the lighting, consider using incandescent, salt lights, and candles
- Set a regular bedtime and time to get up, even on weekends, so your student’s body gets into a natural rhythm
What time does your school start? Do you think it is the right time for your learners? If not, what would be?
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