Later start could let teens get more sleep

Camas School Board to discuss issue at Nov. 27 workshop, meeting

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In light of research showing that, when it comes to teenagers and sleep, the early bird not only doesn’t catch the worm, but might suffer physically, mentally and academically, leaders in the Camas School District are considering shifting school start times to help middle and high school students get just a little more sleep.

“Student health is a priority for our district,” CSD Superintendent Jeffrey Snell stated in a letter he gave to Camas School Board members last week, at the Board’s Nov. 13 meeting. “Over the past several years, community feedback has compelled us to prioritize the social-emotional health of our students.”

Snell added that a Citizens Advisory Committee had researched the issue of school start times and found that even a slight change could have a positive impact on students’ overall mental, physical and emotional health.

One University of Minnesota study, which looked at more than 9,000 high school students in eight different public high schools, concluded that schools with start times of 8:30 a.m. or later allowed a majority of the student body to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

The study showed that students’ academic results, attendance rates and test performance all improved when school start times shifted to 8:35 a.m. or later.

Another article, “American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: School Start Times for Adolescents (2014),” published in the peer-reviewed Pediatrics journal, states that earlier school start times — before 8:30 a.m. — lead to a disruption in teens’ circadian rhythms and contribute to insufficient sleep.

“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety and academic achievement,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states. “The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students and urges high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep (8.5 to 9.5 hours).”

The AAP states that later school start times, and increased daily sleep, can help reduce obesity risk, lower depression rates, reduce the number of car crashes linked to drowsy drivers, and improve grades and quality of life for teenagers.

The local Citizens Advisory Committee reviewed the research and came up with a recommendation for the start times at Camas schools, to start in the fall of 2018:

High schools and Odyssey Middle School would start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m.

Liberty and Skyridge middle schools would start at 9 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m.

The district’s elementary schools would start at 8 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., with Lacamas Lake Elementary School starting at 8:15 a.m. and ending at 2:45 p.m.

The recommended start times align with research showing teens benefit from later start times, allow for more after-school enrichment opportunities at the elementary level and reflect feedback from staff and parents, Snell states in his report to the Camas School Board.

“Changing start times is challenging because of the impact it has on students, staff and families,” Snell states. “The Citizens Advisory Committee made a recommendation to move our schedules to better align with best-practice research that supports students health … Once a decision has been made, times might be altered for bus routing.”

The Camas School District Board of Directors will hold a public workshop on this issue starting at 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 27, at the district headquarters, 841 N.E. 22nd Ave., Camas. The Board also will discuss the issue at the regular 5:30 p.m. Camas School Board meeting on Nov. 27, and will allow for public comments at that meeting.