Junior and high school, and some elementary school, students in Corner Brook are going to be able to get a little extra shut-eye in the fall.
The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District says it is acting on science it has known about for a long time in its decisions to start classes at three schools later than they currently do.
Students at Corner Brook Regional High School, who have been starting their school day at 8:55 a.m., will now start at 9:20 a.m.
Classes at Corner Brook Intermediate School will shift from 8:20 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Only one elementary school, C.C. Loughlin, will be affected by the changes. That school will be moving its start time from 8:20 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.
Students at the schools will be in class later in the afternoon when the changes come into effect.
Donna Miller Fry, the school district’s assistant director of education programs for western region, said the latest sleep research done on adolescents in particular is overwhelming.
Their circadian rhythms shift a little when children hit adolescence and it becomes harder for them to go to bed at night, the studies show. Telling them to go to bed earlier isn’t the answer and it is now believed that letting them sleep a little bit later will be more beneficial.
“A fairly small shift in bell times can make quite a large difference in both student behaviour and student achievement,” said Miller Fry.
Even 20 or 25 minutes of extra sleep can help improve student achievement and help young people make better choices around risky behaviours. Miller Fry said this will help address issues involving diabetes, good food choices, screen time and physical activity.
As for the younger kids affected by these school start time changes, she said it’s always better for them when they can have more sleep.
One of the main factors in deciding to implement changes at C.C. Loughlin was the fact some children are already consistently late for school.
“We are hoping that shifting the start time will help them get that nice, crisp start to school and preserve instructional time there,” said Miller Fry.
There are also some children from the Gallants area who now have to catch a bus into Corner Brook at 7 a.m. The later time will mean these kids won’t have to leave home quite as early.
The later start times could pose a challenge for some parents used to dropping their younger children off as early as 8 a.m. for the 8:20 a.m. start. Whether schools will still open their doors at 8 a.m. as they currently do, said Miller Fry, will depend on each school’s staff and the need to do so.
“It’s still something that we have to work through as we approach this for next year,” she said. “But we are giving folks lots and lots of time (to prepare for the changes).”
The new system, said Miller Fry, will actually solve problems for some families whose scheduling challenge is at the end of the day when the kids get home before the parents.
“We are never going to get a perfect one-bell schedule that is going to suit every family’s schedule,” she said. “So, we have to go back to the research, which says give these kids more time to sleep in the morning and more time to get to school and we have to stick with that.”