Brattleboro Schools Shift To Later Start Time

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(Host) Students at Brattleboro Union high and Middle Schools will get to sleep a little later on school days.

Starting in the fall, classes will begin at 8:45 instead of the current 7:45 start.

School officials say the change recognizes the "adolescent biological clock."

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Ellen Pratt of Putney says she noticed a change in her son’s sleep habits as soon as he hit high school.

(Pratt) "I wanted him continuing to go to bed at 9:00 or 9:30 and there was no way he could –it just seemed physically impossible to him. And then in order to catch the 7:00 bus he had to get up at 5:30, quarter of six and he just seemed extremely tired."

(Keese) Casey Dean teaches at Brattleboro Union High School. He says he sees tired students every morning.

(Casey) "The difference between my first period class at 7:45 and my second period class is pretty drastic, as far as the engagement and kids sharing and talking."

(Keese) Both Casey and Pratt were part of a committee that explored the issue this year and came up with the recommendation for a later school start.

Ron Stahley is the superintendent of the supervisory union that includes the Brattleboro High and Middle Schools. He knew about studies that showed better test scores and fewer attendance and behavior problems at schools that switched to a later start time.

(Stahley) "You know, a lot of people say kids can just go to bed earlier if they have to get up early. And a lot of the studies if you look at that, it’s kind of like the biological clock that they’re not programmed to sleep at 9:30 in the evening. They’re kind of wired at 11 o’clock, 11:30."

(Keese) Stahley says the biggest hurdle to making the change was the union district’s complex bus schedule.  He says no one wanted the elementary school children leaving home too early, or walking home in the dark during winter months.

But working with the bus company and models used in other schools, the district came up with a plan.

Starting this fall, elementary students will be bused before the high and middle schools, but only by 15 minutes to half an hour.

Stahley says the committee sent out a survey early on.

(Stahley) "I would say most of the districts were two-to-one supportive of the change."

(Keese) Some students have objected to the new release time, which is also an hour later. They fear the change will interfere with sports schedules or after school jobs.

Stahley thinks those fears are over blown.

(Stahley)" It doesn’t seem like there’s going to be much impact in the fall or in the spring, and in the winter most of the games are like basketball games, which are in the evening anyway. So the good thing there is when they get home at ten o’clock or eleven o’clock after an away trip,  they get an extra hour’s sleep in the morning."

Stahley says the late start has been instituted in other parts of Vermont, including South Burlington and Champlain Valley Union District.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.

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