By Dr. Jan Hittelman

After many years of community discussions, the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) recently announced that Fairview and Boulder High Schools would be moving to later start times. Fairview will move their start time from 7:30am to 8:15am, while Boulder HS will move their start time from 7:30am to 8:00am. This decision was made after reviewing research on the subject as well as surveying parents, students and teachers. Under the direction of outgoing BVSD Superintendent Chris King, a committee of staff and community members met for nearly a year to study the research and offer recommendations. As anyone who has researched this knows, the evidence is irrefutable; teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep, on average cannot get to sleep until 11pm, and are required to be at school by 7:30am. The math simply demands a later start time.

That is why BVSD’s recent decision regarding their late start times is so bittersweet. While it is certainly a step in the right direction, their revised start times are still too early. The national referendum on later start times advocates a start time no earlier than 8:30am. For example, according to the Public School Review: “Changing school schedules so that students do not have to be at school until 8:30 a.m. or later could allow students to start catching up on some of that missing sleep”. This mirrors the research in the July 2010 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, where a study that moved the high school start time from 8:00am to 8:30am found that “Students reported significantly more satisfaction with sleep and experienced improved motivation. Daytime sleepiness, fatigue and depressed mood were all reduced. Most health-related variables, including Health Center visits for fatigue-related complaints, and class attendance also improved.”

It is important to remember that these changes in start times at two BVSD high schools will serve as a pilot for consideration of future late starts at these and other high schools in the district. If they have not moved the start times late enough to make enough of a difference physiologically, is it really a fair test of the new policy?