To enhance kids

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Senior Khalid Doulat has time to pray, help his mom and get ready for track practise in the mornings before he needs to be to Upper Darby High School.

He and many other students at the school like the later start time, which was pushed back from 7:30 AM to 9:45 AM in 2015. The COVID-19 epidemic highlighted the need for change, with one goal being to reduce the burdens placed on students.

Doulat said, “I’ll be honest, I’ve been much better in the early mornings.” Instead of “grudging out of bed and things like that” at 7:30 a.m. and “coming to school smiling more,” I have been more upbeat and enthusiastic.

Many people have advocated for later school start times over the years as a way to help kids get more sleep, but now the idea is receiving a makeover as a way to address the mental health epidemic affecting youngsters throughout the United States.

The epidemic presented an opportunity for several schools to try out whole new timetables. For example, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, has been considering later 2019 start times. Using range knowledge during the school day was the solution it found this year.

Upper Darby Superintendent Daniel McGarry said that upon returning to classroom instruction, many students had mental health struggles and behavioural concerns. A decline in students’ respect for teachers’ authority was seen by authorities.

“We had a great deal of those things that we were dealing with, and we’re still working our way through it; we’re in a far better place,” McGarry said. I think the kids are in much better spirits now. They aren’t infinitely superior. He claims that students no longer experience the same levels of social anxiety as they did before enrolling in an online programme.

Female and LGBTQ+ teenagers reported the highest rates of poor mental health and suicide attempts among high school students throughout the epidemic. Research suggesting that students in middle and high school are not getting enough sleep is not helpful.

According to Orfeu Buxton, director of Penn State’s Sleep, Health & & Society Collaboratory, “these mental health hurdles are currently going to occur and then, with the lack of sleep, are much even worse.” The same holds true for “decision making,” “self-destructive ideation,” etc.

Many high schools start their day before 7:30 a.m., but the reasons for this are “lost to the sands of history,” as Buxton put it. To paraphrase, “whatever is baked into that: traffic light patterns, bus schedules, and grownups’ work.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least nine states are considering legislation relating to school start times, up from four the previous year. When it came to setting school start times in 2019, California was the first and only state to do so.

Denver, Philadelphia, and Anchorage, Alaska, are just a few of the large school systems that have been exploring later start hours.

A fresh timetable may require some tweaking.

Upper Darby High School’s official school day begins at 7:30 a.m., however many students begin their day with assigned homework that relates to their classes and is completed elsewhere. They are free to do anything they want first thing in the morning, whether that’s catching up on sleep, finishing up homework, or meeting with teachers during regular office hours. The morning’s assigned tasks must be completed sooner or later, but exactly when is up to the trainees.

Junior Elise Olmstead said, “I think getting more sleep is certainly helping.” Because of all the activities I had after school, I would be more irritated later in the day. I would find it much more challenging to get through each day.

Still, classes are dismissed at 3 p.m.

Freshman Fatima Afrani said that when she arrives home, she usually relaxes for a little before helping her mum or doing homework.

I can now say, “If I’m tired, I go to sleep, something I couldn’t say in 2015. She said, “In 2015, I just had to get my research done because there was no option of being able to do it later.” And it was nice to know that if I was exhausted, I could give in to my natural inclination and go to bed.

According to Principal Matthew Alloway, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of students who fall asleep in class. As an added benefit, the new timetable has allowed “kids to go to school for precisely what they need,” as he put it. The school offers virtual learning to about 400 of its 4,250 students, giving them a chance to compete with online institutions.

The new timetable has been criticised for allegedly giving teachers less time to instruct their classes. Alloway noted that it wasn’t as though lectures always lasted the full 80 minutes, thus the original 80-minute durations were cut.

In some instances, it was a full hour of concentrated instruction. The next step was to sit down and write. Time has come to leave. “We could have watched a movie,” he said.

Administrators claim that the scheduling change has helped with other pandemic-related challenges, such as teacher shortages. Early morning is a good time for teachers to take care of themselves and their families. When employees call out sick, managers have more time to replace them.

Upper Darby high school senior Doulat said that even though students don’t notice immediate improvements, the programme has had a profoundly positive impact.

“It’s such minute adjustments in our daily lives that we do not see it,” he said. But then kids start growing up, and we can feel the difference in our own life.


For the Statehouse News Initiative of the Associated Press and Report for America, Brooke Schultz is a member of the corps. Report for America is a national service programme that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover issues that aren’t getting enough attention.


The Associated Press’s education arm receives funding from the New York-based Carnegie Corporation. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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