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California pushes back school start times; should Colorado do the same?

Sleep specialist weighs in on school start times
California pushes back school start times; should Colorado do the same?
Posted at 7:26 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-18 08:34:46-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — California is the first state in the county to pass a law keeping high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m.

The discussion surrounding later school start times has already been happening in one school district in Southern Colorado, and a local sleep specialist said California's framework could be a good one to follow.

Dr. Viral Kothari is the medical director at Pediatric Sleep Specialists, where they treat every major class of sleep disorders.

"As a pediatric sleep physician, I'm in favor of creating a day structure that permits middle and high schoolers to get more sleep," Kothari said.

Kothari said 6 to 12-year-olds should get somewhere between 9 and 12 hours of sleep per 24 hours, while 13 to 18-year-olds should get somewhere between 8 and 10 hours of sleep a day.

"Middle and high schoolers don't get enough sleep, across the board. We think that 70% of teenagers don't get enough sleep, they get somewhere around 7 hours or less," Kothari said.

He also mentioned that later school start times are associated with better grades, less depression, and less caffeine use.

Those with School District 11 said they understand the need for adolescents to get an adequate amount of sleep, but they can run into some challenges when changing start times.

"If you push start times back, especially at the high school level, you push a lot of the extra-curricular activities back later and later, and so students would ultimately end up being at school later anyway," said Devra Ashby, the public information officer for School District 11.

Still, Ashby said the district wants this to be a discussion across the community.

"We can adjust for and make sure that we are providing the very best academic schedule for all of our students," Ashby said.

Parents and students can express their opinions on school start times at a session for School District 11's Academic Master Plan, which could be implemented by spring of 2020. The meeting will be at the Tesla Opportunity Center on Monday, October 21, at 6 p.m.