ALDEN, N.Y. — Students in the Alden Central School District went back to class Thursday, and there was a big change for the start of the school year — new arrival times.
District officials have been discussing the change for a few years now, but it was finally implemented for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Younger students will start their day earlier, and older students will get to hit the snooze button. Those in kindergarten through fifth grade will start at 7:40 a.m., an hour earlier than last year. Students in grades 6 through 12 will start at 8:55 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m., and their day will end around 3:30 p.m.
"Really for us, the research was out there, but our day-to-day conversations with our faculty and staff and attendance officers spoke volumes," said school superintendent Adam Stoltman. "[There were a] number of students that would arrive late, grades six through 12 because their bodies just aren't equipped to go to bed at nine o'clock, 10 o'clock and wake up early in the morning."
Sleep experts applaud the change and say students young minds, developing bodies, and academic performance will benefit.
"It's going to help tremendously. It has been a mission of sleep medicine doctors for decades to change when high schoolers go to school because it's against their normal biological rhythm. It really hurts their mental health and their wellness to have teenagers wake up when they're not ready to wake up," said Amanda Hassinger MD, a pediatric sleep medicine specialist with UBMD.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that 13 to 18 year olds should regularly sleep 8 to 10 hours per day, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says insufficient sleep in teens is an epidemic. It recommends middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get the amount of sleep they need.
California recently implemented a law that says most high schools can't start before 8:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. for middle schools.
Stoltman says other Western New York school districts have reached out to him for more details on the schedule change because they're interested in possibly switching their start times.
"Like any change, we will continue to monitor and see what the change brings upon as far as student learning, student engagement, and student attendance," Stoltman said.