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What time does school start?

Amy Casaldi Current Affairs, Education Policy

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sleep schedules.  With the upcoming birth of my husband and I’s first child, and having friends with young kids things like feeding and nap schedules are something I find myself reading about a lot.  This semester my district also released a survey about proposed new start times for elementary, middle, and high school. All of this left me thinking about what time should school start?

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high school students do not start before 8:30am. Most adolescents are not getting the amount of sleep that they need at night, which can lead to poor academic performance and health risks such as being overweight, not engaging in daily physical activity, suffering from symptoms of depression, using drugs and alcohol, and more.  With the recommended start time it is interesting how uncommon it is to find schools that start at 8:30am or later. I researched neighboring school districts to my own and could not find one school that started at this time.

 

As I researched schools in the rural parts of the state I did find many schools with slightly later start times, typically around 8am not 7:30am or earlier as I found in the Phoenix metro area.  There is a compound effect of the start times however. Many rural schools or schools in smaller towns do not operate Monday through Friday and have a four day week due to budget saving efforts. If a day is taken out of the school week it is more difficult for a school to have later start times because it begins to get too late in the afternoon as well.

 

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have studied school start times at a national level and found only two states, Alaska and North Dakota had a majority of schools that began at 8:30am or later, regardless of level of schooling. Arizona’s average time is 8:03am, not the earliest state (Louisiana at 7:40am) but earlier then the suggested time.  Click here if you are interested in looking at the average school start times by state.

 

When considering school start times its important to consider the driving factors behind how the start times are set.  Are they based on community activities and schedules, time zones changes based on the seasons, weather considerations such as when it is too hot or too cold for school sports?  

 

So, how can you help support your child at home:

  • Advocate for later start times if you feel strongly that this would help your student and others, please keep in mind one of the ways districts set their bell schedules is based on transportation and scheduling of after/before school events
  • Set a media curfew, screens and the blue light from LED will disrupt student’s natural body rhythms, it is best to use these during day time hours only
  • Dim the lighting, consider using incandescent, salt lights, and candles
  • Set a regular bedtime and time to get up, even on weekends, so your student’s body gets into a natural rhythm

What time does your school start?  Do you think it is the right time for your learners?  If not, what would be?

 

For more information:

https://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/index.html

 

An Arizona native, I earned an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University, B.S. Marketing, B.S. Business Process Management and an M.Ed. in Gifted Education from Arizona State University. I have spent the past 11 years working in public education, K-12 and higher education, with nine of those years spent in the Gilbert Public Schools district. As a 5th grade teacher at Islands Elementary, I am passionate about student relationships and engagement, demonstrating that passion by bringing the outside world into the classroom. I have served on numerous committees including the Arizona State Standards Committees and district curriculum committees as well as serving most recently as an Arizona Hope Street Group Fellow. I was awarded the Teacher of the Year Award from my school, a scholarship from Engineering is Elementary to the Museum of Science in Boston, and a Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute Scholarship. When not working, I enjoy traveling and hosting parties with my husband Heath, laughing at our two silly cats, and anxiously awaiting my National Board portfolio scores.

  • Jen Hudson

    Thank you for your excellent research. For the first ten years of my career, I taught at one of our district’s “late start” middle schools; we started at 9am and ended at 3:40. I will selfishly admit that one of the reasons I chose to work at this school was because I was not (and am not) a morning person. :)

    Many of my middle school students would show up to school well-rested and ready to learn. However, there were always certain students who would stay up until 3am because a later school start time made them feel emboldened to have a later bedtime. My high-level athletes also struggled with a late start time; many had to opt out of school electives in order to attend the necessary training/practices that their sport demanded.

    The 9am start worked wonderfully for students for their middle school years, but many failed to adjust to the 7:30 high school start time that would eventually befall their sleep schedules. I feel like there has to be continuity of and commitment to school start times within a district feeder system.

    • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      I also feel like there is a strong trend toward students who stay up late on their devices…

      • Amy Casaldi

        Its such a hard balance too with after school activities and sports because as the times get later in the morning so do the activities in the evening.

  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Unfortunately, in many districts, the transportation department determines (to a large degree) school start times, due to the demands on the busses.

    I currently work at a Junior High that starts at 9:05 and it is heaven. So much more time to meet with parents before school if need be, and everyone is more awake than when I taught at high school beginning at 7:30, including me!

    • Amy Casaldi

      Transportation is a driving force in changing my district’s time as well. Thanks for sharing about your experience in Junior High with a late time!

  • Tim Ihms

    Hi Amy. Fun topic. Our school begins at 8:35. While I would really enjoy beginning at 9, I am not complaining about the 8:35 start time.