A group of students studying solutions for later school start times have come up with solutions that are being used in other districts across the nation, making it possible for their district to come up with a workable plan.
In Chester County, Pennsylviania, Matthew Daniels, a senior at Unionville-Chadds Ford High School took a challenge from one of his teachers freshman year to find ways to make the quality of life for high school students better. He and a friend noticed that their peers were yawning mid day and chugging high caffeine drinks. They decided to investigate.
They learned from a National Sleep Foundation study that over 85 percent of teens get less than the recommended 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep. They also learned that teens find it more difficult to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning due to delayed circadian rhythms. They found out that suicide and car accidents are often the result of sleep deprivation in teens. For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association have all endorsed later start times for schools.
Daniels presented the findings to the school board and surveyed other students. After finding more information, he joined with other student leaders on the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s Student Forum, and they have been moving forward with recommendations to change the first bell to 8:30 am.
“There are a lot of obstacles,” Daniels conceded, “but with committed students, administration, and community, finding a solution with the least impact on stakeholders, it’s possible.”