Boston City Council takes up debate over starting high schools later

BOSTON — Boston City Council is debating the merits of later start times for high school students.

Doctors recommended starting high school later to allow adolescents to get more than nine hours of sleep at night. While some city councilors are on board with doctors, critics say changing the start time would negatively impact transportation, sports practices and after-school jobs.

Some other school districts have already made the change, but the debate is just getting started in Boston.

"We've got more than half of our high schools have start times in BPS before 7:30 a.m. Some are starting as early as 7:10 or 7:20," City Councilor Matt O'Malley said.

The education committee heard testimony on the merits of pushing back start times with the aim of keeping students up in class. And for O'Malley, it's  personal. His nephew is a high schooler.

"He lives in West Roxbury. He goes to school in Roxbury. It's not that far, but because of taking the bus and a train, he often has to leave his house around 6 a.m." O'Malley said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends adolescents get 8-10 hours of sleep every night and they're wired to fall asleep later at night. Studies have shown more sleep translates to better test scores and a drop in tardiness.

But Angelina Camacho, with the Citywide Parents Coalition, says don't hit snooze just yet.

"I have considerable reservations about saying, because children are more alert that that alone means we should adjust the times," Camacho told FOX25.

She's concerned about after school sports and transportation.

"Some of these families are actually relying on the after school income that our students are bringing in," Camacho explained.

Almost a dozen Bay State districts have successfully changed their high school start times and six others are considering it, according to the AAP.

"I think it's important for parents to consider the health repercussions and there are many, many communities and school districts around the country who have successfully done this," Dr. Judith Owens, with Boston Children's Hospital, said.

Some are hoping to hear the bell ring after 8 a.m. next year.

"I would argue that simply moving the start time even a half-hour or 45 minutes later, we'd be able to achieve all of the concerns with the stress on the MBTA or homework time or job time," O'Malley said.