- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - A large suburban Chicago school district is the latest of several in Illinois moving toward starting classes later in the morning amid recommendations from doctors that teenage students need more sleep.

Board members from Northwest Suburban High School District 214 in Arlington Heights received positive feedback on the idea during a Thursday night meeting. Superintendent David Schuler recommended high schools in the district start at 8:20 a.m. instead of at about 7:30 a.m., the Daily Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1qikgh4 ).

Several other districts in places like Gurnee, Naperville, Lincolnshire, Normal, Lake Forest and Barrington also are thinking about starting classes later in the morning or have plans to start later.

The efforts come after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy in 2014 stating that classes shouldn’t begin until at least 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school students. The academy cited studies that found most U.S. students in middle and high school don’t get the recommended 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep on school nights. It said the later start times will help curb teens’ lack of sleep, which is linked to poor health, bad grades and vehicle crashes.

Dr. Nitin Soorya, an emergency room physician from Barrington, said he advocates for later school start times because his medical training taught him that teens are hardwired to go to bed later as they hit puberty. Letting teens sleep later improves academic and sports performances and decreases behavior problems and tardiness, Soorya said.

“They are driven by their biology to go to bed late,” said Soorya, who is an Illinois representative for the Maryland-based group Start School Later. “The price for not accommodating these children undermines everything the educational system is set up to do.”

Elise Rebmann, a mother of two from Edwardsville, said she has taken to letting her daughter drink coffee to wake up and take melatonin to go to sleep. The 15-year-old freshman needs to be up at about 5 a.m. to catch a 6:20 a.m. bus to start classes at 7:20 a.m., Rebmann said.

“I’m not arguing that I want my kid to be able to sleep all day,” said Rebmann, whose southern Illinois chapter of Start School Later has about 225 members. She wants more people to understand medical research behind the issue.

“It’s really detrimental to teens to get up this early,” Rebmann said.

The National Association of State Boards of Education has said the issue with changing start times often comes down to cost because bus routes will have to change. The association also has said after-school sports are another often-cited obstacle because a later dismissal delays practices and games. The shift may also cut into time for homework and after-school jobs.

In Arlington Heights, the school board later this month plans to vote on whether administrators should pursue the later start time. The changes would go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year at the earliest.

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