Worthington News

Addressing the board

Juniors pitch later start times, cite supporting studies

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The theory is this: If teenagers could sleep in a little later, they would achieve more, miss less school and even drive more safely.

Worthington High School juniors Andrew Foster and Zach Walton presented their case to the Worthington Board of Education on Monday night, April 28, suggesting that the district's high schools start a little later each morning.

They cited research results showing that teenagers' brains are not ready to go to sleep until about 11 p.m. When they have to get out of bed at 6 or 7 a.m., they cannot get the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep, they said.

School board members are familiar with the research and informally have discussed moving the start times at the high schools, but nothing has been done.

Foster and Walton said they plan to follow up to try to make a difference for teenagers who follow them. As juniors, they know any changes would not be made in time to affect their lives.

At Kilbourne, buses arrive at 7:15 a.m., and classes begin at 7:45.

The boys said they would prefer that the district move the start time like Dublin did a few years ago. In Dublin, high school begins at 8 a.m.

Better yet, they suggested, start Worthington high school classes at 8:30 a.m., which is the start time at some middle schools. That would make more sense, Walton said, because the melatonin rushes that keep teens up until 11 p.m. or later do not begin until puberty. So then also begins a need for more sleep, he told the board.

Starting early means some teens are not alert for morning activities, could miss school because they are tired and even drive less carefully. A school district in Kentucky that changed morning start times to a later time saw a drop in the number of traffic accidents involving teenagers, the boys said.

More than one study has reported a direct correlation between sleep and performance on standardized tests, they said.

Foster and Walton began researching the topic as a project for their U.S. Government class. Talking to teachers and administrators proved to them they are not alone in their belief that high school hours should be changed.

"Pretty much everyone we talked to agreed with us," Foster said.

Now that they know so much, they are determined to follow through to try to make a difference, they said.

"It is less about the project and more about what we can do with this," Foster said.

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