- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Middle and high school students are tired of the early start for school. Literally, tired. So are their parents and teachers.

They’re ready for the Monroe County Community Schools to pay attention to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those state that adolescents naturally go to sleep later and schools should start later to accommodate them.

Adrian Thompson, a senior at Bloomington High School North, gets up at 5:30 a.m. so he can be at school by 7:40 a.m., in time for his first class, pre-calculus.

He’s shared his perspective with the school board at public meetings more than once, because he’s tired of getting up so early when his body refuses to fall asleep in time for him to get a full eight hours of rest.

“It’s not because we just like to break the rules. It’s just that we don’t have the urge to go to sleep at 9, 10 or 11 at night,” Thompson said.

He’s not alone.

Jennifer Livesay and Renate Kasak both have daughters who are juniors at Bloomington High School South, and their kids have the same struggle with getting to sleep early.

“‘Just send your kid to bed earlier’ just doesn’t work,” Livesay said.

Her daughter tosses and turns and doesn’t fall asleep if she goes to bed early. Kasak’s daughter lies awake in bed, too.

“They have human bodies. They’re not machines. You can’t just turn them on and off,” Kasak said.

Jim Keplinger says it’s “horrible” getting his two adolescents up in the morning.

“Their bodies, as a rule, don’t really shut down until 11 p.m. No amount of alarm clock and timing or anything else is going to fix that. That’s an evolutionary thing,” he said.

Parents say the lack of sleep is not just going to have an impact on their kids while they’re young. Keplinger, Livesay and Kasak are concerned that their kids are forming bad habits that could affect them into adulthood.

“We’re teaching children to live in a state of exhaustion,” Keplinger said.

“They get used to functioning at a lower level,” Livesay said.

It’s not just that teens are learning to function on less sleep, but Livesay and Kasak have taken to streamlining their daughters’ mornings as much as possible, so their kids can stay in bed just a little bit longer.

Kasak sets her daughter’s breakfast out the night before, and Livesay gets up early to prepare her daughter’s breakfast.

“She’s 16. She should be doing this for herself, but I want her to get sleep,” Livesay said. “If she were able to get her own breakfast, that would be more developmentally appropriate.”

Thompson said getting up early has taken its toll.

“It’s harder to concentrate when you’re exhausted. You can’t remember things as well. You’re socially inept,” he said.

Teachers are noticing their students’ struggles, too.

“It’s always really striking to me on Wednesdays because we have the late start - my first period is like a different class. They are more cheerful. They are more talkative,” said Kathleen Mills, chairwoman of the English department at South.

On Wednesdays, MCCSC’s middle and high school students start at 8:25 a.m. instead of 7:40 in the morning. The late start time is to allow teachers to meet for professional learning communities to collaborate, discuss their courses and consider student progress.

Because of the early start time every other day of the week, Mills takes the energy levels and alertness of her students into account when she prepares for her first-period classes. She tries to plan group or partner work that allows students to get up and move around at the start of class and the lecture at the end.

“You can’t do that with every lesson. There are days when it needs to be focused on me. I have stopped during morning lessons (for students) to take a one-minute stretch break,” she said.

She’s also noticed students who are chronically late to class or miss first period entirely. When Mills sees them later in the afternoon and asks them why they didn’t show up for her class, their response is that they just couldn’t get up in time. As a result, they’re making up work they missed.

Students, parents and teachers are ready to see a change. They’d like for middle and high schools in the district to start a little later.

Livesay and Kasak are so fed up, they’re preparing to circulate a petition to oppose the school district’s early start times.

“We want the kids to be healthy,” Kasak said. “My daughter never gets eight hours.”

“We make all kinds of other accommodations for young people,” Mills said. “In my ideal world, this would be an accommodation that we’d somehow figure out how to make.”


Source: The Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1MVZCfg


Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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