More districts are considering later start times for middle, high schools

Jim Melwert
February 08, 2019 - 3:31 pm

Dreamstime

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) -- The movement to start high school later is gaining steam.  

The push to change start times is based on sleep studies that show the average sleep cycle during adolescence shifts about two hours later.

“The rhythms of the students is they are still going through REM sleep up through about 7-8 o’clock in the morning,” said Phoenixville School District Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley.

He says that’s like forcing an adult with a natural wake up time of 6 a.m. to get up at 4 a.m.

Phoenixville recently voted to make the change to an 8:05 start time, not quite the recommended 8:30, but Fegley says it’s a challenge with after-school activities, jobs, and childcare.

But he says they spent about a year and a half reviewing data, finding it credible with clear benefits to the students.

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“There’s some findings that are showing the mental health of the students is improved when they get better sleep," he said. "There is research out there right now that students who have a later start time have a lower rate of car accidents than students who are starting early.”

The Unionville-Chadds Ford school district made the change in the 2017-18 school year, and board president Jeff Hellrung says, while they’re careful not to read too much into one year of data, they’ve seeing many positives from the change.

"Literally nobody – and I have frequent contact with our community including teachers, students, parents," he said. "I haven’t heard a single person want to go back."

Hellrung says students responded positively to 17 of 20 questions in a survey after the change, he says there have been less concussions and better attitudes in first and last period.

He also points out they’d won three state championships in the history of the school, and then won three state titles the first year they made change, but he’s quick to add they can’t prove a connection there.

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