Is later start time in store for Park students?Could high school students in District 833 sleep in a little longer starting in fall of 2009?
By: Louise Ernewein, South Washington County Bulletin
Could high school students in District 833 sleep in a little longer starting in fall of 2009?
That’s the question officials in South Washington County Schools are asking themselves, as they investigate the idea of later start times for the district’s high schools.
Research suggests that high school students achieve more, and absenteeism and truancy are lower, when they start later.
As a result, District 833 is looking into the subject over the summer vacation, and will make a decision by September as to whether it is even feasible for the area’s three high schools (Woodbury, East Ridge and Park) to start later than the current start time of 7:30 a.m.
“What we would say is that if we couldn’t start 45 minutes later than that, it really wouldn’t be worth changing,” explained Dave Bernhardson, principal on special assignment who is leading the investigation.
“If we were to make a change at the high school level, if we couldn’t start high school at 8:15 a.m. or later, it really wouldn’t be worth the time.”
Bernhardson said that if initial findings show District 833’s transportation could stand up to the change, a final decision will be made in January as to whether to implement new school start times.
It is likely that elementary and middle school start times would also be adjusted to cater to any later start at the high school level.
Research carried out by the University of Minnesota and reported in 2002 stated that 20 percent of high school students slept during their first two hours of school, as their brains and bodies were still in a biological sleep mode.
An announcement on the research, posted on the university’s Web site, states: “From the onset of puberty until late teen years, the brain chemical melatonin, which is responsible for sleepiness, is secreted from approximately 11 p.m. until approximately 8 a.m., nine hours later.
“This secretion is based on human circadian rhythms and is rather fixed.
“In other words, typical youth are not able to fall asleep much before 11 p.m. and their brains will remain in sleep mode until about 8 a.m. regardless of what time they go to bed.”
Further research in the School Start Time Study focused on two school districts, Edina and Minneapolis, where high school start times were pushed back to 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. respectively.
According to interviews with parents, 92 percent of respondents in Edina favored the later start times after one year.
And in Minneapolis, data showed a significant reduction in school dropout rates and depression, and students reported earning higher grades.
South Washington County’s neighboring School District 622, covering North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale, has already voted to move to a later start for its two high schools, North and Tartan.
From September, lessons will begin at 8:15 a.m., 50 minutes later than the previous start of 7:25 a.m.
Louise Ernewein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.