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Pediatricians call for delaying school days by half hour

Re-routing school buses is one of the biggest obstacles faced by school systems.
Re-routing school buses is one of the biggest obstacles faced by school systems.
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

With the school year already underway in many parts of the country, and about to begin in others, the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for administrators to institute later start times, particularly for teens who don’t seem to get enough sleep. While the recommended amount of sleep for teens in both middle school and high school is 8.5-9.5 hours, most are averaging less. As a result, many are now at risk of poor health, as well as bad grades, car accidents and other related problems.

“Evidence on potential dangers for teens who get too little sleep is ‘extremely compelling’ and includes depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, poor performance in school and on standardized tests and car accidents from drowsy driving, stated Dr. Judith Owens, the policy's lead author and director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC

According to government reports, nearly 40% of public school classes begin before 8 am, which means kids have to get up before dawn in order to get ready, including arriving on time at bus stops for transportation to school. However, just by backing up first classes until 8:30 am could make a big improvement according to the Academy.

Making the change may sound simple at first, but it can also complicate things when it comes to money and other factors.

Still, “the main issue is really cost,” stated National Association of State Boards of Education director Kristen Amundson, who also cited problems with changing bus schedules to accommodate changes, which would often involve re-routing those who often make a number of runs for younger and older students every morning, as well as then backing up afternoon pick-ups for later dismissal times as well as after school sporting events (both practice sessions and games).

“The shift could also cut into homework time and after school jobs,” she added.