Healthy Start Times

There is a growing body of evidence that later school start times is important for the health of adolescents and their academic performance. Teens have a different sleep cycle than adults or younger children. They tend to go to sleep later. If they are forced to wake up early, they get less sleep. Later school times are associated with teens getting more hours of sleep during the week. More rest means that teens are healthier, both mentally and physically, and are more primed to learn as memory is negatively affected by lack of sleep.

The Board of Education should take the leadership in developing and implementing a health school start time. I do not currently have a position on any specific schedule option but believe we need to work with the community in developing a plan that works for most people.

Some people have expressed concerns about the costs. However, while the costs of different options vary, one of the plans currently under consideration would cost around $350K out of a $93 million operating budget, or only about 0.4% of the budget. It is my opinion that we should be able to find more than enough savings in our budget to fund these extra costs. It is important to remember that we are currently wasting a lot of money if we are spending tens of millions of dollars educating our adolescents and they are too tired to learn optimally.

There is a growing movement around the country to realign high school start times to a schedule that best matches what adolescents need. Wilton and Greenwich have already adopted later school start times for their high schools and Westport is considering to do the same. New Canaan should not be a laggard on this important issue.

Some links on this topic:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out in favor of late school start times

A large scale study was recently done in Seattle, which had switched high school start times by nearly an hour, and found significant improvements in academic performance.

Research shows starting school later is better for students