Chatham HS considers later start times to allow students to get more sleep

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The Chatham School District is considering changing start times for high school students in order to allow the students to get more sleep.

The current start time for Chatham High School is 7:40 a.m. but the district is considering starting at 8:30 a.m. District officials say that the extra sleep would allow the teens to be more productive in school and improve their grades.

"We know that our high schoolers are the ones not sleeping enough,” says Superintendent Michael LaSusa.

The district surveyed the students and found that 50% of juniors and 55% of seniors slept for six hours or less each night. Students were waking up as early as 6 a.m. to get to the school bus stop on time.

The survey also found that girls were getting less sleep than boys. The students also said that they average around three hours of homework each night.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says a later start time is "an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement."

But a later start time is not without its challenges. The district would need to pay more for school buses and bus drivers.

"We've estimated it to cost somewhere around $300,000. That's a rough estimate,” says LaSusa.

There is also the traffic flow. There could potentially be students from six schools moving around the town at the same time.

Another issue would be the sports programs. The school will need to be able to compete with other schools even if students finish classes later.

LaSusa says that it may be difficult, but he says that he believes that it will be worth it for the change.

“I believe that this is the most impactful change that we could make in a positive direction for our students,” he says.

The district may be able to make the change by 2021, but the plan is still in its early stages.

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