BEND, OR -- Beginning next fall, start times for Bend-La Pine Schools will change, with younger students starting about an hour earlier, and older students an hour later. "Elementary schools will start at approximately 8 a.m. and end at 2:30; and our middle and high schools will begin at approximately 8:45 and end at 3:45," Superintendent Shay Mikalson told KBND News shortly after announcing the shift at Tuesday night's School Board meeting.
According to Mikalson, the change is in the students' best interest, "A substantial body of research shows that the teenager would biologically benefit from later start times. All of our secondary schools currently begin before or at 8 a.m., which the American Academy of Pediatrics says is too early." In fact, he says some secondary schools in the district start as early as 7:30 a.m. "Specifically, the AAP says shifting back middle school and high school schedules is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide-range of potential benefits, in terms of academic achievement, physical and mental health, and safety. Solving sleep-deprivation issues with our students is not as simple as recommending earlier bedtimes." Mikalson says there is evidence that teens' circadian rhythms make it difficult for them to fall - and stay - asleep when they try to go to bed earlier.
He says the decision wasn't made lightly, "Because our students’ physical health, emotional wellbeing and academic success is our priority, we’ve decided to make this change. This decision comes after nearly two years of staff, student, parent, union leadership and community engagement efforts."
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Mikalson says districts across the country are making this shift, in light of the research. Most of Oregon's largest districts all have secondary start times of 8:30 or later, including Portland, Hillsboro, North Clackamas, Eugene and Medford. He says announcing the change nearly a year ahead of time will allow everyone to plan accordingly.