Schools in at least sixteen states are planning to ring morning bells later this school year to improve student sleep, health, and learning.
While some of these schools will still be starting classes too early, or moving high schools later by moving other kids earlier, every one of these bell time delays is a move in the right direction. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five out of six middle and high schools in the United States currently start class too early in the morning to allow for healthy sleep - even when students go to bed at reasonable hours.
With the American Medical Association (AMA) now joining the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics in calling for classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for middle and high schools, we can expect even more schools to join the Start School Later Movement.
The Sweet Sixteen
Schools reportedly planning to start later in the morning for the 2016/2017 school year include, by state:
California: Morago Middle School
Florida: Leon County Schools (offering optional late arrival)
Illinois: Normal (Unit 5), Stevenson High School (Lincolnshire)
Indiana: Monroe County Community Schools
Iowa: Iowa City
Maine: Biddeford, Saco, Dayton, Orchard Beach districts, Cumberland/North Yarmouth, plus the Thornton Academy
Massachusetts: Canton, Hanover, Walpole
Michigan: Ewen-Trouth Creek Schools
Minnesota: Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Schools, Wayzata
North Carolina: Durham
Rhode Island: East Greenwich
South Carolina: Charleston County
Virginia: Montgomery County
Washington: Bellevue, Seattle
Many of these school districts are working directly with local chapters of Start School Later or have used resources available on its website. Start School Later regularly tracks progress toward healthier school start times and provides support to communities making these changes.
It's hard to say if these changes are part of a "trend" because there is no official tracking of changes in school hours over time. Also, schools routinely change their hours every year for many different reasons, so it's hard to say definitively if schools overall are moving later, or moving for the sake of teen sleep, health, and learning.
The real trend is the growing number of school leaders and policymakers who are finally paying attention to these changes on a national level. More and more districts are considering changes to allow for healthy sleep, and working to raise awareness in their communities about sleep health. As more people understand why later start times are a necessary part of healthy sleep, we can expect healthier school hours nationwide.