NISKAYUNA – Niskayuna High School students next fall will be the first to see how a later start time and end time will work.
The district announced the change Wednesday on its website.
“Research shows that a later high school start time is better for students at this age level and work by stakeholders in our own community over the last several years focused on this change as well,” the website states.
Discussions on changing the start time began in 2017, according to the district. A committee consisting of teachers, parents or caregivers and students was created and in August 2019 it recommended a later start time to the Board of Education.
Deanna Bouton co-chaired the committee that reviewed whether a later start time was the way to go. She said other schools in the state and in the nation had switched to later times. Schenectady High School switched several years ago.
A Schenectady City School District spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Research indicates the change is actually better for students, Bouton said.
“What it said was that mostly high school students because of their circadian rhythm as teens they go to bed later and they physically can’t wake up earlier,” she said.
In 2018 Niskayuna High School students conducted a survey as part of a class research project and found that 72% of students who responded had fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, according to the district.
However, before the district could determine how to implement the later start and end time the pandemic hit, forcing the district’s hand anyway.
This past school year start times were 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra said both students and faculty loved the times.
“This is one of the positive outcomes of COVID,” he said.
The 2021-22 school year will start an additional 10 minutes later at 8:40 a.m. and the district will gain some additional instructional time by ending the school day at 3:15 p.m.
Pre-COVID the school day started at 7:40 a.m. and ended at 2:45 p.m.
The new start time is one that is supported by the American Academy of Pediatric. In a 2014 policy statement on school start times for adolescents the organization states: “In most districts, middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 A.M. However, individual school districts also need to take average commuting times and other exigencies into account in setting a start time that allows for adequate sleep opportunity for students.”
Renae Semione said her daughter is excited to enter into her senior year with a later start time.
“She likes being able to have more time in the morning,” said Semione, who co-chairs the parent-teacher organization for the high school and was on the committee looking into start times as well.
She said there is some concern about how after-school activities would operate, though. Tangorra on Friday said the change should have little impact on those activities. He also said the change makes it more efficient for the school buses to operate because all of them are needed to transport the elementary school kids, who will now be picked up first. Then the buses can focus on transporting the middle school and high school students.
Overall, Tangorra said, he anticipates the new times will improve the school day for high schoolers.