High School Start Times
- The American Academy of Pediatrics issued recommendations in 2014 urging middle and high schools to delay start times till 8:30 a.m. or later to allow students to get more sleep.
- Several cities and towns in New Hampshire have acted to push back their start times, including Windham and Portsmouth.
- Pro: Later start times would let adolescents get much-needed sleep, leading to better grades, test scores, and overall quality of life.
- Con: Late start times cut into extracurricular activities and other responsibilities such as part-time jobs, while an early start helps prepare students for the requirements of adult life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement in 2014 recommending middle/high schools delay start times until 8:30am or later.
"The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”
The AAP cites a National Sleep Foundation poll where 59-percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87-percent of high school students in the U.S. reported getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights.
Several cities and towns have considered later starts but so far the Windham, Portsmouth, and Oyster River school districts are the only ones to make a change based on sleep concerns.
However, later start times have downsides. A later school start may cut into the afternoon responsibilities of students, such as part-time jobs or babysitting younger siblings. Start times also impact after school extra-curricular activities, such as sports.
Anthony Pastelis, a member of the Rochester School Board, has also argued that early high school start times better train students for adult life.
Should NH high schools start later in the morning?
The Keene school board voted in October to push back start times, stipulating that the middle and high school begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and no later than 9 a.m. The change will take place starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
Salem, Milford, Amherst and the Fall Mountain Regional School District, centered in Langdon, are also debating a shift to a later start time.
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