Teachers say kids seem happier with later start times, 'hard data' too early to call

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It's been one year since high school students within Evergreen School District have begun classes an hour later.

Research as shown that teens who get more sleep are able to learn better, so hundreds of students at Evergreen, Mountain View, Heritage and Union high schools will start class again this year at 8:40 a.m. Scientists say that kids' natural rhythm, their biological clocks, make them sleepy and tired the same time every night, no matter what time they get up in the morning.

And now, a year later, what have school officials learned?

They say it's too early to make a call on "hard data," like attendance rates and tardiness. But Superintendent Dr. John Steach says overall, students seem to be happier.

"Anecdotally, when I talk to teachers about what is the biggest impact they say, 'kids are happier' about the later start times in general," Dr. Steach said.

Parent Paula Sheridan has a child in high school and herself teaches at a middle school. She says it's been a bit of an adjustment because she was used to being with her kids in the morning as they left for class.

"This way, I get home before they do in the afternoon so it gives me some time without the kids in the afternoon to get some stuff done," Sheridan said.

Her daughter, Meredith, admits she now stays up later at night because she starts school later.

"Because if you wake up earlier, you want to go to sleep earlier. So it's sort of the same thing, you wake up later and go to sleep later," she said.

Dr. Steach agrees, admitting there are challenges with late day schedules, but says they're working to adjust. For example, they're eliminating sports and activity fees and adding more bus service to kids can stay after school to study.

"The students we have today and tomorrow are different than those we had yesterday, and we have to do things differently to meet their needs," Dr. Steach said.

While some districts have made minor changes to bus schedules, they haven't gone so far as to push the start time back like Evergreen. There are no plans for a similar time change in Portland Public Schools, according to a spokesperson.

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