This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended an 8:30 a.m. or later start time for the nation’s middle schools and high schools. The group cited research that adolescents need 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep a night.
Delaying the school day, which can begin as early as 7 a.m., is a good idea. Fewer students would show up bleary-eyed, and more might perform better academically. But there’s a reason American schools have been unable to make the change: It’s impractical.
Starting school later would mean ending school later, which would have a big impact on what students can do afterward, what parents can expect of their teens, and perhaps even what schools would pay for transportation.
Student athletes would have to practice later into the evening; away games on school nights would be harder to manage. Working students might have a difficult time finding or holding jobs after school. Teens who baby-sit young children after school — or are needed by their parents to care for younger siblings — could be less available.
Catching a bus at 5:45 a.m. so that a student can beat the homeroom bell at 7:10 may not be ideal. But for now, it’s hard to see how middle schools and high schools can adopt later start times in the face of these consequences.
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