2017-10-26 / Editorial

Starting school later was needed, smart move

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

The hardworking people of Biddeford, used to long hours and early shifts, know how to get out of bed on time. But anyone who’s had to wake up a teenager at 5 a.m. knows how much they need their sleep. They just don’t wake up like adults. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least nine hours of sleep for teens, yet most get much less than the minimum when they are required to wake up very early on normal school days.

Decades of science shows that the typical teenage brain experiences a two-hour sleep phase delay during puberty. This results in the inability, for many, to fall asleep before 10 p.m. Teens also generally require more sleep (8.5 to 9.25 hours per night) than the average adult. That means waking a sleeping teen at 5 a.m is the equivalent of waking an adult at 3 a.m. These early rising times are not good for developing teen brains, but many students are forced to do it to allow time to get ready for school and catch the bus.

As a result of these findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a starting time for middle and high school students of no earlier than 8:30 a.m. In alignment with these recommendations, Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Dayton schools have been leaders in the Start School Later movement. In fact, in 2016 our schools were Maine’s first to move to a later schedule for high school and middle school students.

Our districts, aligned by their mutual participation in the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology’s programs, agreed to move high school back by one hour to 8:30 a.m. Younger children moved toward an earlier start time. This effort has been a big success. Many busy working parents were able to save money because the switch eliminated before-school daycare costs for younger children, while teenagers caught up on their sleep.

The project is an excellent example of meaningful collaboration between multiple communities.

Four school districts were required to come together. It took a lot of hard work, but they did the right thing for every student and the results are quite positive.

Later school start times will not solve every problem. Students still need structure in their lives, they need supportive parents and a strong community to impart good values. But an extra hour every weekday morning really helps. I am proud of our schools and commend our school boards for continuing to put student health at the center of their decision making process.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission. Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show. Find it on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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