Letting high schoolers sleep in? The good and bad of later start times

Local News

An Ohio lawmaker wants school to start later each day, but the principal at Youngstown's East High said they tried that -- and it didn't work

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – This week, a state lawmaker said he’s pushing to change the times students start school each day because he thinks they’re going too early now.

The idea of later start times for schools is not new in Youngstown. Two years ago, administrators pushed the opening bell from 8 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. at East High, thinking the extra time to sleep in would reduce absenteeism.

“We did not see attendance pick up at the high school and we also still saw a high amount of tardies,” Principal Jeremy Batchelor said.

This week, a lawmaker from Cleveland introduced a bill that would push start times to at least 8:30 a.m. in Ohio, claiming it would allow students to get to school after sunrise.

Batchelor said that could create another problem.

“When we were getting out at 4:30, we would have students walking home sometimes in the dark, so you would have a flip side to both cases.”

State Senator Michael Rulli spent time on the Leetonia School Board. He said there have been studies suggesting later start times are better for teenagers.

“I think they’re staying up ’til midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning and if you have a 6:30 bus call, you’re only five or six hours in the sleep cycle. So I don’t think that’s enough.”

That’s the primary reason behind a recent switch in start times for all schools in California.

But both Rulli and Batchelor admit later dismissal times could cause problems for bus schedules, extracurricular activities and students who work after school.

“They were having a difficult time finding jobs,” Batchelor said. “Employers sometimes, maybe, weren’t hiring our students because they couldn’t get there ’til 5, 6 o’clock.”

“You want to get them on the way home by 8 o’clock. So they can’t even get there ’til 5, that’s only a three-hour shift,” Rulli said.

While Rulli said, overall, he supports the later start times, Batchelor said since the district went back to a 7:30 opening bell at East this year, attendance is the highest it’s been in three years.

“We are also experiencing less tardies and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know if that would be the case or not. I thought we might see a pike in tardies in the morning, but we really haven’t.”

Rulli said he favors later start times for high schoolers, while leaving elementary students at earlier times.

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