Pediatric Group Recommends Later Start for Schools

Created: 08/25/2014 10:51 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- For some students it’s the last week of summer vacation, for others Monday saw a return to the classroom to start a new school year.

While those students got an early start before Labor Day weekend, new recommendations from a leading children's health organization have some districts considering a later start; not the date, but the time.

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines, recommending high schools and middle schools delay the start of class until at least 8:30 a.m. to be more in line with adolescents' natural sleep cycle.

The National Sleep Foundation says 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students aren't getting enough sleep, leading to an increased risk for obesity, depression, and car accidents.

Experts say well rested students also have better grades, and students said they feel the strain of early start times.

"I get really tired in the morning and I fall asleep sometimes first and second hour,” said Zeke Peters, a sophomore at Austin High School.

"Normally we're having three morning practices, so I won't even start at 7:50 a.m., I'll start at 6:00 a.m.,” said Kassie Fate, a sophomore at Austin High School.  “Which definitely isn't a thing for me."

Austin High School starts class at 7:50 a.m., and a committee examining the district calendar is also looking at start times to figure out the best fit for both the community and the students.

"If it does really impact learning, then we should be able to accommodate it,” said Austin Superintendent David Krenz. “We should be flexible enough to be able to do that. We'll see."

For many parents getting kids ready for school, morning can be the busiest time of day, and some say extra time would only make things more worse.

"It would be really difficult to have the kids going later if they're younger age and can't get to school on their own,” said Lynn Fisher, whose son attends IJ Holton Intermediate School in Austin. “We have to be at work at 8 a.m. and what do you do with them beforehand?"

Still, one student offered a compromise.

"I think it's fine most days, but it'd be nice if we had some days where it started at like 9:30-10:00 a.m.,” Peters said. “Because I know other schools around us have those half-day late starts."

ABC 6 reached out to Rochester Public Schools where officials said they aren't looking at moving start times back and haven't for at least the past few years.

A committee recommendation for start times in Austin is expected by December.