More than two thousand exhausted students arrive at Camas High School each morning before the sun rises. First period is supposed to be a time for learning, but all too often it becomes a time when students struggle to stay awake. Clearly, change is needed. Since 2001, the Camas School District has considered delaying the start time for high school students, and now, as a result of changes in neighboring Evergreen School District, a change in Camas could be on the horizon.
This year the Evergreen School District made the decision to delay high school start times to better its students´ amount of sleep, behavior, work ethic and health. According to the district’s web site, “60 percent of students obtain at least eight hours of sleep per school night when start times shift to 8:30 a.m. or later.” District leaders want to eliminate dropouts and improve their graduation rate.
Here in Camas, the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, which advises the school board, is looking at the option of pushing back the start time at Camas High School for next year. Superintendent Jeff Snell said, “There are a lot of factors that go into the decision including the impact to high school students, transportation adjustments that might affect elementary and middle school, and transportation capacity if more buses and drivers are needed.”
Camas High School Principal Steve Marshall encourages the idea of later beginning times but not later end times. For example, Marshall is concerned about cross country practice being held in the dark. “It would be unsafe for the cross country team to run in the dark.”
So why the push to start school later? Research shows teenagers’ brains become fatigued at eleven o’clock at night. In other words, they are programmed to stay up later and sleep in. But the average teen reports getting only six hours of sleep a night. Pushing back start times can actually improve grades and work ethic in students. A high school in North Eastham, Massachusetts started later, failing grades dropped by 53 percent.
Back in the Evergreen District, HeLa High School student Reece Boyce says his grades and focus improved dramatically with the change of start time.¨My first period grades have gotten so much better. I thought it was just the class, but after I got more sleep, my grade in the class was one that I actually wanted.”
Camas High School is a school to be proud of regardless of its start time. “I am so proud of our school, athletics and amazing graduation rate” says Marshall. Camas has an exceptional graduation rate, athlete population and phenomenal grade point average, proving it has succeeded without later start times. So, only time will tell whether sleepy students will catch a break and come to class after the sun rises in the future.