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Should school day start later so students can get more rest?

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Saginaw, Mich. — If you’re the parent of a high school student, you know how hard it can be to get the kids out the door so early. But new research is showing that waking up early may be shortchanging your children.

A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found 59 percent of 6th through 8th grader students and 87 percent of high school students in the United States get less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep during the week.

Michael Breedlove is a junior at Saginaw Arthur Hill High School, where classes start at 7:30 a.m. He says juggling school, activities and homework can be exhausting and a later start time would allow him and other students to get more rest.

“I think it’s more important for high schools to start later,” says Breedlove. “It gives us a better start of the day so we can actually come to school prepared to learn and have a beneficial day.”

Research shows teens who are well rested are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents and suffer from depression. They also have better grades.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy suggesting middle and high schools not start class until 8:30 a.m. or later.

Mike Vieau is the superintendent of Pinconning Schools. Right now, high school students start at 7:50 a.m. But Vieau says now that some state requirements have changed, district leaders are considering switching from seven to six periods each day and starting a little later.

“I’ve talked to some of our administrators since the study to see some things we could do here to maybe push our start back a little bit,” says Vieau. “I don’t want to say we’re doing it only because of the study about sleep time. But it was mentioned when we did consider going to a little later start. Well, it does kind of add up to what’s being talked about now.”

When start times at high schools in Minneapolis, MN were pushed back an hour and a half, administrators say there was a number of positive changes, better attendance rates, less sleeping in class and a decrease in student reported depression. But could it work here in mid-Michigan?

Some parents say pushing back the start of the school day could cause conflicts in their routines as well.

“That means i’m going to be picking my son up from practice at like 10-10:30. I’m not cool with that,” says Saginaw resident Reather lloyd. “We have parents that go to work. We have schedules that we have these children on. To start them later that would definitely cause some problems.”

The superintendent in Pinconning says the plan to push back start times there still needs the approval of the teachers union. He says they would only start about 15 to 30 minutes later.

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