Small start time change with a significant impact on education

Clinton Community School District plans switch of start times next year

CLINTON, Iowa - Making the most of students' time in the classroom is the reason for a change by the Clinton Community School District.

Next school year, elementary students will start classes earlier, while middle and high school start times will be pushed back.

Research shows, teenagers perform better at school work when they start later in the day.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says limited sleep in teens can have both health and cognitive impacts, leading to poor school performance, obesity and tardiness. 

Clinton Community School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy said, "We're an academic institution, this decision needs to be based on academics, and I think that's the reason we're making the change."

When DeLacy steps foot into math class, his time teaching the subject quickly takes over. 

While he reviews multiplication tables of small numbers yielding big results, the school district he runs is also hoping a slight change in start times will equal a significant beneficial impact on the learning and behavior of students.

Right now, start time in middle and high school is at 7:55 a.m., and elementary at 8:40 a.m.

In the fall, those start times will be slightly reversed, with middle and high school around 8:30 a.m. and elementary school at 7:45 a.m.

For mother Megan Comstock, she's finding her student is ready for the change.

She said, "I have a high school student who's thrilled."

The high school PTSA president, Comstock was among other parents, teachers and administrators who took up the issue early last fall with what started as a concern raised by teachers of elementary students. 

DeLacy said, "One of my major concerns is we have students in our building for two hours and ten minutes before we start our school day and then by the time it gets in the afternoon, it gets to be a very long day for them."

One of the main reasons was that parents have to be at work before school starts. 

DeLacy also said research on sleep and learning of middle and high school students provided another reason for the switch. 

DeLacy "That students will be more prepared to learn at the beginning of the day starting a little bit later."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommended teenage students should start school no earlier than 8:30 in the morning because they're wired to fall asleep later, and an early alarm can harm that performance in school. 

"This is actually based on a teenager's brain biology. A teenager doesn't naturally fall asleep earlier in the evening, that a lot of time it's around 11 p.m.," DeLacy said. 

Comstock said, "I hope that the kids take advantage of that time to sleep a little bit longer, I hope that it doesn't give them an invitation to stay up later, but I think it will be a good thing for them."

Comstock and DeLacy say the change is finding a better reception in elementary schools.

Comstock said, "I found that most of the elementary parents are very excited about it. Their kids are up early, ready to learn."

DeLacy said elementary teachers are also excited because it will mean an additional hour in the classroom with students before lunch. 

While in middle and high school, there is a bit more apprehension because of the what it could mean for teens in afterschool activities and athletics. 

DeLacy said, "They may be missing some school once a week when they're on a road trip, and that's happening right now, it just now they will be missing a little more school because obviously, the day is ending later."

DeLacy said right now they are finalizing the change with the transportation department.

He added they will be evaluating students outcomes over the next few years with grades, standardized test scores and attendance. 

DeLacy is unaware of any nearby school districts that have switched start times but says Des Moines, Iowa, Madison, Wisconsin and Boston, Massachusetts also recently made the decision to delay start times for teen next school year. 
 


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