Could Students Benefit from a Later Start Time?

by Mashal Shoaib

Students walk to classes at 7:00 a.m. on a school day morning. (photo credit / Mashal Shoaib)

As more research becomes available, the idea of having later school start times have gained momentum in the Chicago suburbs. But could it ever happen at Indian Prairie School District 204?

As more research becomes available, the idea of having later school start times have gained momentum in the Chicago suburbs. But could it ever happen at Indian Prairie School District 204?

“It all kind of depends on the school environment, in particular, what’s going to be best for students,” said first-year English teacher Michelle Kohs. “There’s been a lot of research and studies on how kids need sleep, especially in high school. You need that sleep in the morning. I think that’s the number one benefit of it.”

“One of the things with high schoolers is that their natural internal clock is about one to three hours later,” said health teacher Rebecca Goff. “They naturally want to go to bed one to three hours later, wake up one to three hours later. Teenagers have a long period of time where they’re not getting enough sleep. That’s associated with things like higher rates of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem. You are going to be more awake, alert and engaged, if you feel more rested.”

The sun rises over Waubonsie Valley, where classes begin at 7:25 a.m. (photo credit / Mashal Shoaib)

For high school only districts, a later start time would be easier to experiment with. However, at District 204, it would be difficult to implement, due to the fact that there are 33 schools at different levels of this combined district.

“Whatever happens to the high school schedule, also would impact the elementary and middle school schedule,” said Goff.

District 214 in Arlington Heights, an all-high school district, moved the start times for its high schools from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. District 50 in Gurnee, consisting of only elementary and middle schools, is planning to institute earlier start times for their 2019-2020 school year.

A 2014 article from the American Academy of Pediatrics says recommends that middle and high schools start no later than 8:30 a.m., citing biological sleep rhythms of adolescents.