State resolution puts school start times, once considered in Park City, in the spotlight – The Park Record

Posted: February 22, 2020 at 2:42 pm

The Utah Legislature has passed a resolution regarding high school start times that, while not binding, nonetheless brings the childhood development issue into the spotlight in school districts around the state including in Park City, where local school officials have spent significant time in recent years grappling with the topic.

Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, introduced the legislation. As a physician and a mother of teenagers herself, she said the issue of sleep-deprived children is near and dear to her.

Anyone who has teens knows it is difficult to wake them up early in the morning, she said. But they arent lazy they are in a unique developmental period. They are undergoing a host of biological changes, including brain development and sleep changes.

Chief among those changes as they pertain to sleep is the bodys release of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate a persons sleep cycle. In the average adult, melatonin starts kicking in around 9 p.m. For the average teenager, health experts say, the body doesnt release melatonin until 11 p.m. As a result, only one in 10 teens are getting the recommended nine hours of sleep.

And this is putting them at risk for serious mental health, physical health and academic risks, Harrison said.

Harrisons resolution, H.C.R. 3, encourages Utah school districts and charter schools to consider the possible benefits and consequences of a later start to the school day for high schools. After winning support in the House earlier this month, the resolution was approved in the Senate Friday, sending it to the governors desk.

The resolution is nonbinding it encourages districts to explore the change but doesnt mandate it. That, Harrison said, is by design. For one thing, she said, addressing sleep deprivation in teenagers requires a holistic approach. It isnt just the schools that need to adjust.

There are many things parents, families, communities and school districts can do to help our kids get more sleep, she said. Looking at school start times is one thing that studies have shown can help kids get more sleep and is an important public policy discussion to have.

For another, Harrison recognizes that a statewide mandated school start time is unworkable. Different communities have different needs. The emphasis, she said, is on local solutions.

Im hoping this resolution will encourage conversations at the local school district and community level to educate families about sleep science and have a local discussion about how to help our kids be as healthy and academically successful as possible, she said. This is not a mandate. Im asking for conversations and innovative ideas for helping our kids.

Harrison said she is looking forward to discussing the issue as a parent in her own community and seeing what works there.

I would love to see some reasonable shifts in start times where feasible, she said. I also hope this will spur innovative ideas and solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for this.

Harrison said in her research she has already seen some school districts make interesting changes to their schedules to allow their students to get more sleep.

Some school districts are offering options for first period to allow more students to sleep in, she said. Other districts have shifted the timing of core classes versus electives or PE classes to accommodate later school start times so student athletes miss electives or PE rather than core classes the few times a semester when they need to leave for competitions or games.

Other districts have found opportunities for improving efficiencies in transportation schedules or routes to help address transportation challenges in shifting times. The bright people in our communities and districts may come up with other ideas, but we wont discover them unless more communities have the conversation about sleep science and high school start times.

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State resolution puts school start times, once considered in Park City, in the spotlight - The Park Record

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