In an effort to help high school students get more sleep, school officials and experts met last month to discuss later school start times.
Dr. Hilary Pearson, a pediatric sleep medicine expert with Cook Children’s Medical Center, said adolescents who get too little sleep are at risk for behavior problems and lower performance at school.
She said students should get about 9 hours of sleep each night. In order to achieve this number, some school advocates said school should begin later.
Currently Arlington has one of the earliest start times for high schoolers: 7:30 a.m. But other districts in the area, such as Plano and Frisco don’t start high school classes until 9 a.m.
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Debbie Moore, founder of the Arlington chapter of Start School Later, said if high school kids began school later they could have better academic performance, have less depression and discipline problems, decrease teen auto accidents and reduce the high school dropout rate. Pearson, who is a pediatrician, agreed.
But school board member Gloria Peña said the district has discussed later school times and the suggestion was met with an extreme backlash from parents.
“Parents would be inconvenienced,” she said. “Some kids have to work after school. It’s not a choice, and businesses don’t want it.”
Michael Hill, assistant superintendent over transportation, agreed with Peña that starting later could pose problems for some students. He said parents would still drop their kids off at the current start time, which would leave students unsupervised for an hour and a half before school.
He said high school buses begin picking up students earlier than for elementary and junior high schools because they have a larger area to cover. If school started later, those children would get out of school later and would stretch school resources too thin to get the children home at a reasonable time.
“If we started later, it would require more buses and drivers,” he said.
Peña said the district has decided to put together a committee to study the benefits and detriments to starting high school later.
“I have to worry about the community as a whole,” she said. “Later start time would affect work schedules and school staff hours. If it impacts the family, it will impact the child.”