Senate encourages Utah schools to study benefits of late starts for high schools

Senate encourages Utah schools to study benefits of late starts for high schools

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate gave final passage Friday to a resolution that asks school districts and charter schools to study the benefits of late starts to high schools.

HCR3, sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, encourages schools to study the physical health, mental health and academic benefits of starting high school at a later hour, and then craft solutions that would work for them.

The Senate voted 22-1 to pass the resolution. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, cast the lone no vote, explaining that schools and districts are already having these conversations and implementing changes.

For example, Jordan School District recently announced starting next fall, 11th and 12th graders at Jordan District high schools will have the option of starting school at 9 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. if they take blended learning courses, which are courses taught primarily online but give students the option of interacting with teachers in person as needed.

The Salt Lake City Board of Education is also studying late start, recently conducting a listening tour on the issue. The board has created a task force to look at the issue further.

The Center of Disease Control’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 43% of American high school students get less than six hours of sleep on school nights.

According to HCR3, just 10% of adolescents get the recommended 9.25 hours of sleep each night.

The resolution states that research indicates numerous consequences and impacts on adolescent brain development are associated with sleep deprivation.

They include lack of attention to learning tasks, poor retention of information taught, low grades, increased risk of auto accidents, increased disciplinary problems, impaired judgment, increased suicidal thinking, increased levels of anxiety and depression, decreased motivation, increased substance abuse and other negative consequences.

Last fall, California became the first state in the nation to push back school start times for all middle and high schoolers, although it will be phased in over three years. Some rural schools will be exempt, but at most others, middle schools would not start before 8 a.m. and high schools would start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

In recent years, Utah educators, elected officials and parents have debated the issue but to date, only Logan City School District has made the switch.

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