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Proposed Changes to School Start Times Could be Implemented Next School Year

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Rafaela Johnson, the mother of a 2nd Grade Student at South Union Elementary School, knows what kind of an impact beginning the school day earlier, at 7:50 AM, would have on her family. "Making it earlier would definitely be more difficult for us," she said. Johnson knows her seven year-old son Barrett is not in favor of waking up earlier. "It`s nice having a little bit later start time. It is kinda hard to have productive kids that early in the morning. It`s hard enough getting them to school at 8 AM or 8:15 AM, and especially with those of us that have little ones, it`s difficult first thing in the morning," said Johnson.

Middle School Students would start the day later, but Howard Hewlett - a 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Weeks Middle School, thinks the proposed changes are unnecessary. "I think their heart’s in the right place. They`re trying to fix the problem with the kids being groggy and they are first think in the morning. We have a lot of issues with tardiness, kids are lethargic when they get there, but a lot of that is in my opinion, going to bed too late, watching TV, being on their phones, playing video games until midnight, 2, 3 in the morning," said Hewlett.

Hewlett thinks there's another solution that can fix the problem without changing the start times. "A lot of this can be solved without having to change everything over, by having the kids go to bed earlier, but that puts the onus on the individual, as opposed to the school, so, it`s kind of hard to tell parents, hey make your kids go to bed earlier," said Hewlett.

But that might be an oversimplification of the matter or an incorrect understanding of the situation, according to Dr. Nathan Boonstra of Blank Children's Pediatric Clinic. “There is a huge body of research showing that teens get better sleep when they go to bed a little later and when they get up a little later and there’s a lot to be said, and it can’t be repeated enough that this is not just because teenagers just stay up late and then they don’t get up in the morning because they’re so tired. There is actually a physiological shift that happens after puberty. Kids start to secrete melatonin, that’s the hormone that initiates sleep. They secrete this later, by an hour or two after puberty, so it is actually more difficult for kids to fall asleep when they are a teenager," said Dr. Boonstra.

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