NEWTON (CBS) – The school buses roll in early at Newton North High School. Students race to get to their first class by 7:50 AM. “Most people are tired. They can’t think in the morning. It’s kind of hard for them,” says one sleep-deprived Newton student. “I don’t get a lot of sleep and it would be super nice to start school a little later,” agrees another.
To help these busy students get more sleep Newton is now looking into the possibility of a later high school start time. “Right now the research is so overwhelming and studies continue to come out that say later start times are healthier for adolescents,” explains Newton Superintendent David Fleishman. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 or later. Harvard researchers found 16-year-olds could benefit from a 10 o’clock start time and 11:00 AM could be best for 18-year-olds.
But changing the clock is not easy. “If it were simple a lot of smart people would have done it a long time ago,” says Fleishman. After-school sports, activities, jobs, and flipping schedules with elementary schools create a maze of challenges. “I think it’s a good idea in theory, but in practice, it would create complications with kids who are in sports,” says one Newton North Sophomore. A Newton dad says he wants his daughter to be able to sleep in, “but my daughter, when we asked her, she wants to get up early because she has so much to do.”
Several Massachusetts school districts are also looking into a time change including a dozen in Middlesex County working together on a possible later start time. The change, says Newton’s Superintendent is impossible for one town to make alone, “if one school makes a change and they are not on the same school clock as others [there are] tremendous implications for sports, extracurricular activities, as well as teacher schedules. A lot of pieces have to come into place. It’s not something that can be rushed.”
Right now Newton is in the process of getting feedback from teachers, parents, and students to see if people really want to make the switch. And on Beacon Hill, lawmakers are pushing for a study on school start times to see if changes need to be made state-wide.