Waking up your kids for school can be a daily struggle.
The best time for students to start school is a national debate, and now South Carolina lawmakers are weighing in.
A bill introduced in the State House calls to create a “Public School Start Time Committee” to examine the benefits of pushing back all school start times an hour later.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates only three out of ten high school students get the recommended eight to ten hours a night. Only 15 percent of high schools follow the American Academy of Pediatrics advice and start at 8:30 a.m. or later.
Dr. David Rosenberg, Inpatient Pediatric Director at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, said lack of sleep can lead to poor classroom performance.”You tend to be more tired,” Rosenberg said, “Your level of attentiveness decreases so it’s more difficult to learn, your memory’s not as good.”
Rosenberg said there are signs parents can look for that show their child isn’t getting enough sleep. Those include poor performance in the classroom, irritable or aggressive behavior, and not being able to retain information.
Rosenberg suggested that parents set a strict bedtime, be consistent with that bedtime, and take all electronic devices out of the bedroom to limit distractions.
Three St. James High school students that News13 sat down with said their 8:20 a.m. start time leaves them feeling groggy pretty much every day.
“I fell asleep in second block today, and I missed a video,” junior Tommy Barrineau said.
“Even if you don’t fall asleep you’re still like not fully functioning,” junior Jackson Sullivan echoed.
State Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-SC) said South Carolina falls behind the curve in grade point average, and to fix that, the state can’t keep going through a revolving door.
“It’s just a no-brainer,” Gilliard said. “When you look at the status in South Carolina where we are with these GPAs, with these students, you know we have to find a bold initiative as to really help these students.”
And that “bold initiative,” he said, is pushing start times back later by one hour. For example, if your school starts at 8:00 a.m., under the proposed bill that time would get pushed back to 9:00 a.m.
Gilliard said it would be up to each district to decide how to stagger start times between elementary, middle and high schools.
Lisa Bourcier, spokesperson for Horry County Schools, said the district has had its current scheduling system for years and staggers its start times because of bus schedules.
“We have a very large county, and we have over 374 buses in our fleet,” Bourcier said. “We do need that time because we do a dual route where they take elementary students, and a lot of those buses come back and do the second route for the middle school and high school students.”
Different people that News13 talked to were split on pushing times back an hour.
“Oh I would love to sleep in,” HCS third-grader Ava exclaimed.
Ava’s mom, Heather Kite, agreed.
“I think that’d be great for elementary students to sleep in an extra hour,” Heather said. “When my five year old started elementary school she was she was getting up at 6:00 a.m., which is super early for those little kids. And a lot of them have to catch the bus at like 5:45.”
Some parents worry the later times would negatively affect their work and daycare schedule.
“If it started an hour later that means I go to work later, and it messes up my hours,” parent Wyatt Brookshire said. “I’m away from home more, darker hours, and I don’t want to do that.”
Researchers at the University of Washington used wrist monitors to measure how long two different groups of sophomores slept. One group was monitored in 2016 when school started at 7:50 a.m., and the other group in 2017 when classes began almost an hour later at 8:45 a.m.
Students who started class later slept an extra 34 minutes on school nights, and their grades improved an average of 4.5%.
While the study showed positive results for students’ health and academics it did not address potentially negative impacts on their after-school activities, which now might take place after dark.
“I go into work at 4:00, so if school didn’t get out until 4:15 instead of 3:15, it would just mess everything up,” senior Lawton Branham said.
However, the three St. James High school students ultimately agreed the positives outweigh the negatives. “I can lose a couple dollars to be happier,” Tommy Barrineau said.
Right now, the bill is in a state education committee.