Seattle Public Schools have pushed start times for students until after 8:30 A.M. for the 2016-2017 school year, per recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. High schools, most middle schools, and elementary schools will be starting classes at 8:45 A.M., though some schools will start at 7:55 and others at 9:35 in the morning.
“This is a great win for our students,” says Sharon Peaslee, Vice President of the Seattle School Board. “We will unleash a torrent of public schools shifting to bell times that make sense for students.” The change follows years of petitioning from parents, teachers, and scientists who advocate for more sleep for the young and growing, especially for teenagers, who biologically tend to be night owls.
Teachers notice a difference in their students between first period and third period classes, when students are more awake and engaged in the material. But a problem with starting schools at different times is that it puts pressure on parents to find alternative methods of transportation for their little ones, and the later times might make all of this happen in rush-hour traffic, exacerbating the state’s already-awful traffic problems.
However, traffic patterns were considered in the board’s decision. “They looked at [the patterns], they looked at how that would change, what time would the buses be arriving and leaving, looking at standard city traffic, and showing that there will be some changes in traffic. But it would not have any major impact,” says Sam Markert, senior project manager for Seattle Public Schools.
The American Academy of Pediatrics report that young students who don’t get enough sleep are subject to physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. The organization specifically recommends that school start times be delayed until after 8:30 to allow the recommendation of 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep to be met.