Despite an abundance of international studies showing the potential benefits of later start times, several school boards across Canada are still on the fence about the concept.
The research suggests that earlier start times interfere with the normal sleep patterns of adolescents and could negatively affect their mental health and academic performance. Sleep deprivation is such a pressing concern that the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared it a public health issue for teenagers and has directly named early start times as a contributing factor.
The majority of school boards across the country are only starting to consider the research now. There seems to be a general reluctance to implement any concrete plans for later start times.
However, a few schools are still willing to test out the idea. In Ontario, the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board already has later start times in place, with classes delayed as much as an hour (9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.). The six schools under the board are located in a northern region of the province, which meant students were having difficulty getting to school on time due to lengthy commutes, and focusing on their studies once they got there.
Sean Monteith, the director of education for the board, claims the shift in start times produced positive results immediately, with a significant decline in drop-out rates and an increased attendance score. He hopes that graduation rates will also show improvement by the end of the year.
The same results were seen in one school under the TDSB, which implemented 10 a.m. start times as part of a two-year project. Students demonstrated better punctuality, greater alertness in the mornings, and improved grades without a decline in extracurriculars.
The latest school board to take on the late-start initiative is the Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ontario. Hopefully, more school boards will follow suit within the next few years.