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Later is better, Minnesota precedents show

 

If the governing board of the Sequoia Union High School District adopts a policy requiring its four comprehensive high schools, including Woodside and Menlo-Atherton, to start the regular school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m., it will be unusual but not unprecedented.

Research that is at least a decade old shows that teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep to function at their best. The Sequoia board heard a presentation in December on the topic and directed staff to come up with a policy recommendation.

In 1996, two Minnesota public high school districts -- Edina and Minneapolis -- changed their start times to 8:30 and 8:40 a.m., respectively, from 7:25 and 7:15 a.m.

Analysis years later showed students experiencing fewer incidents of illness, depression and tardiness, and better attendance and grades. Teachers noted more alert and better behaved kids, with fewer sleeping at their desks.

Transportation to school athletic contests was the biggest sticking point in the Edina district, the report said. In response, the district looked at the length of practice times and the "effective use of time" in all extracurricular activities.

"The Edina superintendent shared his view that the district needed to move ahead with a change unless obstacles were found that could not be overcome," the report said. That eventually led to a new bell schedule, based on a consensus among school decision makers, district administrators, athletic directors and transportation staff.

Overall, the Minnesota changes had students arriving home later, but without changes in participation rates in after-school activities, the report said. Most coaches and activity directors said the kids were "less tired and seemingly more mentally alert at the end of the day." Those coaches who dissented coached sports with long practices and distant away games.

Go to tinyurl.com/StartStudy for more information.

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