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Should high school start at a later time for students in WNY?

Doctors say yes, some school officials say no
Students gather outside of high school buildings around 7 a.m.
Posted at 2:30 PM, Apr 19, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Students wait for the doors of Middle Early College High School to open around 7 a.m. each day. For these teenagers, the alarm goes off around 6 a.m.

"Waking up at 6 a.m. everyday is kinda tough, but it's more or less how you set up your schedule beforehand," said D'Andre Cleckley, a freshman at Middle Early.

The average start time for schools in New York State is 8:02 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Two lawmakers in New Jersey are pushing to make it state law that school can start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

"I think that'd be cool. That's a good idea. I could get more sleep and have a bit more time to get ready in the morning. It'd be easier to focus first period," said Kaylee Hanes and Savannah Maynard, Sophomores at Research Laboratory High School.

This is something sleep doctors have been fighting for, for decades.

"Teenagers need more sleep than adults, but we treat them like adults, a normal adult should sleep about seven or eight hours a night, teenagers need 8-10 hours," said Dr. Amanda Hassinger who works in pediatrics and sleep medicine with UBMD.

On average, teenagers only get six and a half hours, per Dr. Hassinger. Kaylee goes to bed around 9 p.m. and gets nine hours, but Savannah only gets about seven hours.

Right now in New York State, what time school starts is up to each school district. It's something they've experimented with in Niagara Falls City Schools.

"I certainly understand the reasoning and research behind later starts for older kids. It's just not something that's feasible right now for us," said Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

Laurrie says there are three main issues with moving school start times back:

  1. Students with younger siblings won't be home in time to provide childcare
  2. Students with after school jobs could be late
  3. Busing

"We are in the crisis of not having enough bus drivers and in order to have enough bus drivers, we've gotta have staggered schedules," said Laurrie.

Dr. Hassinger says it's worth moving bus routes around.

"Honestly, make my 4th grader go to school at 7 a.m. Great! And have that teenager that needs to sleep in an extra hour and a half get the sleep they need to function as a human being and continue to grow and develop, which is what we're ignoring for these children," said Dr. Hassinger.

For his district to make any changes, Laurrie says it would take input from families, unions and the school board. They currently take roll call starting at 8:15. He feels a statewide mandate would be an overreach.