School committees in West Hartford and Simsbury are considering whether high school start times should be pushed back later in the morning — a change that could improve educational outcomes and would be welcomed by bleary-eyed students.
It’s a long overdue change. Adolescent students struggle to maintain focus in the early hours, being biologically predisposed to go fall asleep — and stay asleep — later than adults. Asking a sleep-deprived teenager to concentrate on algebra at 7:30 a.m. is a big ask.
Scientists are clear on the issue: High school generally starts too early in the day for adolescents, and delaying start times would have “a wide range of potential benefits,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The town of Wilton shifted start times later for grades 6 through 12 in 2003. It was a success.
If school start times were shifted later across the state, it might also drop a significant barrier to a proposed transition to Atlantic Standard Time for the region. Later sunrises in the winter months could pose dangers to students waiting for school buses in the darkness, but a later start time would lessen those risks.
Even if the goal isn’t a time zone shift, all school districts should follow the lead of West Hartford, Simsbury and Wilton and explore whether later start times are in their communities’ best interests.