The science is clear when it comes to school start times and teenagers. The later they can start, the better it is for the kids.
So it’s important for Saratoga Springs school officials to move ahead with efforts to change the start times for its schools.
That includes reviewing existing data the school collected years ago and setting up a committee right now to look into all the complex issues that such a move would entail.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that kids age 13-18 get 8-10 hours a day of sleep.
Academic performance suffers when teenagers don’t get enough sleep. Students who don’t get enough sleep also suffer more from obesity and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Early school start times is a major contributor to the problem of inadequate sleep.
The Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among those that recommend that middle schools and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.
So it’s important that school districts that haven’t gone to later start times in recent years take this problem seriously and look at ways to get kids in class later.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
If you start the high school kids later, it alters the schedule for middle- and elementary-school students. If you have to bus kids to school, adjusting the start times involves revamping an already complex bus schedule.
Putting elementary school students at the bus stop earlier in the morning raises concerns about the safety, when it’s dark and when inclement weather is more of a factor.
Changing start times also will have an effect on child care decisions for parents.
Later start times in the morning also puts more pressure on the daily academic calendar. First and foremost, districts need to allocate enough time during the day to actually teach kids. But school days must end early enough to accommodate after-school activities like sports.
So we understand the challenges districts face.
Because of the complexity of even tweaking the morning schedule, districts like Saratoga Springs need to act immediately to figure out ways to overcome the obstacles in order to institute later start times.
Set up the committee now, even without the data available at the moment. Use the time to learn how other districts have changed their start times and how they’ve overcome the issues like redrawing bus routes and adapting sports schedules.
Talk with districts about how they’ve been able to provide a complete educational program for students. Talk to parents about the challenges they might face and how to overcome them, including how to get teenagers to get off their phones and go to sleep earlier.
The impacts of inadequate sleep on teenagers are real and significant.
Later start times are worth the effort.
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