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Paediatricians propose later start times for schools

Published:Tuesday | August 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Students enter the ReNEW SciTech Academy, a charter school in New Orleans, United States.
Students Julian Lopez (second left), Ben Montalbano (second right) and James Agostino (right) listen during their Advanced Placement physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington.
Sixth-grade students Miracle Roberson (left), Darion James and Brianetay Martin (right) read during literature- intervention class at ReNEW SciTech Academy, a charter school in New Orleans. AP PHOTOS
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CHICAGO (AP):

PAediatricians have a new prescription for schools: later start times for teens.

Delaying the start of the school day until at least 8:30 a.m. would help curb their lack of sleep, which has been linked with poor health, bad grades, car crashes and other problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a new policy.

The influential group says teens are especially at risk for them, "chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm".

Studies have found that most US students in middle and high school don't get the recommended amount of sleep, eight and a half to nine and a half hours on school nights; and that most high school seniors get an average of less than seven hours.

More than 40 per cent of the nation's public high schools start classes before 8 a.m., according to government data cited in the policy. And even when the buzzer rings at 8 a.m., school bus-pickup times typically mean kids have to get up before dawn if they want that ride.

COST AT CENTRE OF ISSUE

"The issue is really cost," said Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

School buses often make multiple runs each morning for older and younger students. Adding bus drivers and rerouting buses is one of the biggest financial obstacles to later start times, Amundson said. The roughly 80 school districts that have adopted later times tend to be smaller, she said.

After-school sports are another often-cited obstacle because a later dismissal delays practices and games. The shift may also cut into time for homework and after-school jobs, Amundson said.

The policy, aimed at middle and high schools, was published online yesterday in the journal Pediatrics.