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Should districts consider later start times for high school students?

NYSSBA survey asks school board members statewide
Posted: 1:47 PM, Oct 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-02 18:38:25-04
Should start times for high school students change?

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Should districts be rolling back the clock when it comes to school start times? A new survey in New York State finds nearly six in ten school board members believe teens should start their date later to accommodate their natural sleep patterns. But those surveyed also indicated the logistical difficulties of making the change.

The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA ) said a “little more than half of poll respondents said sleep deprivation among high school students in their district was a significant problem.”

Research finds adolescence will experience a change in sleep patterns and they naturally fall asleep around 11 p.m. or later. A later start time for teens would allow them to get the required 8.5 to 9.5 hours sleep each night.

Here are poll results:

  • 59% of board members would be favor of pushing back the start of the high school instructional day
  • 28.5% said they are not in favor of changing the school start time for high school students
  • About 12.5% were not sure

Some school districts in the state have already changed later start times. NYSSBA said in “New York, 42 high schools around the state start their instructional day at 8:15 a.m. or later; 20 start the instructional day at 8:30 a.m. or later."

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Buffalo School classroom.

But accomplishing the time for districts is a major challenge.

Those surveyed indicated the following:

· 82% surveyed indicated interscholastic sporting events as main logistical challenge in moving start time later in morning

· 77% of school board members also identified after school activities as a hurdle to changing start times

· 70% school pick-up schedules as challenge in changing start times

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need.

A recent study of Minneapolis-area high school students found later start times provided a number of positive benefits including improved attendance, less sleeping in class and less student reported depression.

In Western New York, students in the Niagara Falls City School District start high school at 8:15 a.m.

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Niagara Falls City High School students at dismissal Wednesday.

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“Kids are sleeping...they’re zoning out and they come in with big coffees,” remarked Rocco Strangio, junior, Niagara Falls High School.

Strangio tells us he would prefer a later start time to help with a lack of sleep.

“I think it would make it a lot easier getting up in the morning – getting ready for school. I think it would definitely help a lot of kids,” explained Strangio.

Niagara Falls City Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie says there would be many hurdles to changing the start time.

“There are some students who build their work schedules around this. There are some students who play sports. There are some students who have younger sibling commitments – those are just a couple of the complications that could come into play,” Laurrie noted.

“Do you see sleepy students at school?” asked Buckley. “Of course there’s sleepy students in school – kids tend to be sleepy – mainly because they’re on their phones playing games,” replied Laurrie.

“Some students -they post on line – they’re like oh it’s so early and I shouldn’t be up this early but at the same time – I am everyone is accustomed to it,” said Kirk Maragh, senior, Niagara Falls High School.

Maragh says he doesn't think a later start time would make a difference.

“Honestly, I’m accustomed to waking up at that time, so I feel like other students would have an issue with waking up at a different time and they probably would over sleep,” responded Maragh.

Superintendent Laurrie says a change makes good sense for sleepy students, but the devil would be in the details to implement.

The Iroquois Central School District has been reviewing the option of a later start time. But schools superintendent Doug Schofield tells 7 Eyewitness News the district has not had a chance to move the issue forward due other priorities and preferred not to comment at this time.

In the Clarence Central School District high school students start at 8:52 a.m.

The Gowanda Central School District is also consider changing the start time, but no action has been taken.

The Buffalo Public School District has discussed this issue for years. City high school students start from 7:55 a.m. and as late as 8:20 a.m. But a spokesperson said any change would involve the teacher’s union because it would require changing teachers start and end times.

The NYSSBA poll results were based on a random sample of 378 school board members. They were surveyed between September 24, 2018 and October 1, 2019. The NYSSBA said poll has a margin of error of +/-4.8 percent and confidence interval of 95 percent.