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Friday, 21 March 2014

Article: To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In

Jilly Dos Santos organized an effort to push back her high school’s start time to 9 a.m.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Jilly Dos Santos really did try to get to school on time. She set three successive alarms on her phone. Skipped breakfast. Hastily applied makeup while her fuming father drove. But last year she rarely made it into the frantic scrum at the doors of Rock Bridge High School here by the first bell, at 7:50 a.m.
Then she heard that the school board was about to make the day start even earlier, at 7:20 a.m.
“I thought, if that happens, I will die,” recalled Jilly, 17. “I will drop out of school!”
That was when the sleep-deprived teenager turned into a sleep activist. She was determined to convince the board of a truth she knew in the core of her tired, lanky body: Teenagers are developmentally driven to be late to bed, late to rise. Could the board realign the first bell with that biological reality?
The sputtering, nearly 20-year movement to start high schools later has recently gained momentum in communities like this one, as hundreds of schools in dozens of districts across the country have bowed to the accumulating research on the adolescent body clock.
In just the last two years, high schools in Long Beach, Calif.; Stillwater, Okla.; Decatur, Ga.;, and Glens Falls, N.Y., have pushed back their first bells, joining early adopters in Connecticut, North Carolina, Kentucky and Minnesota. The Seattle school board will vote this month on whether to pursue the issue. The superintendent of Montgomery County, Md., supports the shift, and the school board for Fairfax County, Va., is working with consultants to develop options for starts after 8 a.m. 
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When I was a teenager, I remember reading research that said teens needed more sleep and learned better late morning and afternoon. Of course, I wished that schools would adapt to this schedule and we could sleep in and go to school later.

I would have enjoyed a 10am-4pm day in high school, but we had an 8am start.

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