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Experts say later school start times better for children's health and academic performance

Posted: 11:38 AM, Jul 29, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-29 14:38:47-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Does the school bell ring too early for your children? The Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics seem to think so. A lot of experts now believe that later school start times could be crucial factor in improving student's education.

Leann McAllister is the parent of a 15-year-old who has some learning challenges. So, when he had to make up a class in summer school, she wasn’t surprised by that. It was the 7 a.m. start time that didn't sit well with her.

"So, they wanted to take my kid who already struggles, already has troubles in school and then they wanted to add sleep deprivation on top of that!"

Leann isn’t just a protective parent. She's also the Executive Director of the Nevada chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. And she's more than familiar with research showing later school start times, especially for teens, improves not only health but academic performance.

"It's been about five years since the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with very clear guidelines that teenagers not start school before 8:30 in the morning, “Leann said.

But a lot of schools do -- 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools, according to a school health practices study done in 2014.

School start times vary within CCSD, but many Las Vegas High Schools begin classes before 8:30 a.m. They have very early start times at the age that health experts say children need more sleep than adults. Kids between the ages of 13 and 18 should have eight to 10 hours of sleep a night according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"And it's based on decades of pretty solid medical research and science that teenagers can’t will themselves to sleep early at night,” Leann said

When kids aren’t getting enough sleep, we know that there are behavioral changes that are associated with that,” said Terrence McAllister. “You can see it in adults as well, but it’s very pronounced in kids when they are not getting enough sleep."

Leann’s husband is a pediatrician who has spent his career advising parents about healthy sleep habits.

"They are able to learn better. they are able to retain that information a lot better,” Terrence said. "It's also good for them socially because they are able to interact with their peers better."

He said that school districts that have moved to later start times have also seen improved performance in extracurricular activities like sports and fewer car crashes

“A lot of these kids we are talking about ,adolescents. They are driving themselves to school and driving sleep deprived is as a bad as any other kind of distracted driving,” said Terrence.

"In the five years that the CDC and the APA has made that recommendation the trend has been toward moving all school times to later with overwhelmingly positive results,” said Leann “So, I think we are only going to see the trend moving in that direction."

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.

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