Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) leaders recently announced their decision to put further thought into implementing later start times for high schools and will begin formal discussion in March of this year. The dilemma of start and end times is returning to the school district after numerous medical reports and complaints from students and parents, a topic AAPS is breaching for a second time in three years.
The first consideration of later start times in Ann Arbor occurred in 2012, but at that time the Board of Education, “did not recommend a change to the start time,” according to the Executive Director of Communications for AAPS, Liz Margolis. As of now, teachers and students have yet to be polled on their opinions regarding the possible change, but rather parents have vocalized mixed opinions.
The implementation of later start times is complicated for high schools, as students begin taking jobs, babysitting younger siblings, participating in sporting events and having more homework. This is also combined with the modern issue of logistics including bussing of students. Ann Arbor Board of Education Secretary Andy Thomas told MLive.com that “there’s a lot of moving parts in the consideration,” as elementary and middle school days would be forced to also adjust their schedules as well.
Will Brinkerhoff, a sophomore at Pioneer High School, admits that he is often tardy to first hour. He believes that “starting out one hour later would probably help [him] get to school on time.”
Temporary fixes such as napping, caffeine consumption and extending sleep on weekends temporarily counteract sleep deprivation for Brinkerhoff and many other students, but do not substitute for sufficient sleep.
On the contrary, Pioneer junior Abbey Stepnitz does not believe that pushing forward the start of the school day would play a major effect on students. Stepnitz thinks that “students would just stay up later and procrastinate,” not making good use of their time. If students waited longer to start their homework under the impression of having more time, perhaps they “would have the same amount of sleep or even less.” However, Stepnitz says she would “not complain if school started later.”
Medical researchers and sleep science experts have testified around the country about research displaying benefits of later school times to better align with adolescents’ sleep schedules, which include overall better academic performance, reduced obesity, fewer car crashes and fewer incidences of depression. In a study released this past summer by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was recommended that “middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later.”
A change.org petition created by Colleen Seifert, an Ann Arbor parent, has reached 250 signatures urging AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift to change start times for high schools. Supporters stress the need of sleep for teenagers and the health and social issues created by a lack of sleep.
Although this proposition sounds encouraging for high school students and teachers, the effect held on elementary and middle schools has yet to be determined.
When this decision comes before the School Board next month, important decisions will be made regarding schedules for the 2015-2016 school year and forward. If these changes pass, Pioneer students may be walking past the flagpole with a little more brightnss and a little higher temperature next year.