Utica Community Schools explore possibility of pushing back start times

Research shows advantages of starting school later

UTICA, Mich. – Officials in the Utica Community Schools district are gauging reactions to the possibility of pushing back start times.

Mike Austermann is a parent volunteer at Stevenson High School, which starts at 7:20 a.m. He hasn't made up his mind about changing start times because while sleeping in is nice, there are many other aspects to consider.

"I have a band kid," Austermann said. "How would this affect his band schedule? (Would he not be) home until 11? Same thing with athletics. (What) if the other schools don't match our schedules?"

Officials have to consider that if high school start times get pushed back, for example, to 8:30 a.m., everything else could move, including bus times for other schools.

UCS officials are looking into the possible change after compelling research by the American Academy of Pediatrics found children should get 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep. But only 25 percent of high school students get at least eight hours of sleep, researchers said.

If start times are moved, studies show test scores either stay the same or increase. Tardiness and absences are reduced. There's less likelihood of car crashes involving tired teenage drivers.

"We're Michigan's second-largest school district," spokesman Tim McAvoy said. "It's important we take a thoughtful approach."

McAvoy said there are arguments on both sides, which is why the district is taking a parent survey to see how it would affect families.

No decision is expected for the next school year.

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