School Start Time Committee meets at Capitol

DENVER -- When should schools start?

It's a question that has been debated for years in Colorado -- with some school districts making the switch to later start times to accommodate teenagers and their growing bodies.

On Friday at the State Capitol the General Assembly's Committee on Start Times met to discuss the issue in depth. 

"Sleep is not an optional luxury its a biological necessity," Dr. Lisa Meltzer, a sleep expert told the committee.

Meltzer is an advocate for later start times, telling the committees science requires teenagers to receive between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night but most teens are only receiving 7 hours.

"If your teenager is setting 17 alarms and sleeping through all of them it's a sign we are not getting enough sleep," Meltzer said.

Currently across Colorado school start times vary -- 7:30 a.m. for Denver East High; 8:30 a.m. for 27J schools in Brighton.

During Friday's hearing, the Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools testified to how beneficial switching to a  late start has been for the performance of the district's high school students.

Jefferson County education leaders testified they are considering the move -- establishing a task force to look at the issue.

Naturally, issues are coming up -- like concerns over parent's early work schedules, babysitting concerns for elementary students who still go to school early, and bus route complications.

Karen Heigel, the athletic director of Denver Public Schools, said later start times complicate athletic practices for high school students.

"With the lack of lights and the lack of gym space we would have to significantly cut our offerings to our students or would we have to move practices to the mornings," Heigel said.

The committee will now discuss whether any formal recommendations for legislation should be made to the full General Assembly in January.

Senator Andy Kerr,  an outgoing Democratic senator, said the state should be open to more resources so districts can decide on their own more easily to make a change.

"First period they are always just dragging," Kerr said, commenting on sleep tendencies.

 

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