Hit the snooze – Some NJ high schools could soon start later in the day

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TRENTON -

A bill heading to the state Senate floor for consideration could require high schools to start later in the morning.

Supporters of the bill say that teenagers need more sleep than they are getting. They say that starting class later in the day has immense benefits on health, learning and safety.

Classes at West Orange High School begin at 7:30 a.m. – an early start, which means an even earlier wake-up call.

“Those type of hours of the morning are tough for anyone to function, especially when you’re asking students to take on AP classes or engineering classes and expect them to do the best they possibly can,” says Principal Hayden Moore.

Moore says that the district is looking to push back the start time of school independent of the bill proposed by state lawmakers.

RELATED: State report finds Jersey teens should start school later 

The state program would ask five school districts to move their start time to 8:30 a.m. for three years. Medical experts like pediatric neurologist Dr. Lewis Milrod say that this would be a good plan.

“The melatonin is what causes us to fall asleep. There's a peak in it and that peak tends to get delayed later, more towards 11 p.m. So most teenagers are programmed to go to bed at 11 p.m. and most teenagers need 8.5 or 9.5 hours of sleep,” Milrod says.

But critics of the plan say that the idea comes with some challenges, such as timing school buses and adjusting middle and elementary school start times – as well as county programs like Vo-Tech.

The New Jersey Council of Vocational-Technical Schools testified for lawmakers Monday saying, “If a sending district implements a later start time under this pilot, it would become difficult for a student in that district to attend their county vocational school for half of each day.”

But former Gov. Richard Codey, the sponsor of the bill, says that he is confident in the results of the program.

“The benefits are that they get enough sleep for their bodies, they need it,” he says. “The number of accidents…We cut that down hopefully to nothing. They'll do better in their first periods than they do now and will do better on their SATs.”

The pilot program would be set up for the fall of 2020 if the bill is signed into law.

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