EBR Schools superintendent to evaluate school start times

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The new leader of the East Baton Rouge School System is evaluating school start times for middle and high school students.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) shows, on average, Louisiana students start school earlier than others across the country. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long warned that an earlier start to a child's school day could hurt their chances of succeeding.

Students in EBR Parish are getting back into their morning routines. For most high school and middle school students that means waking up early enough to catch a bus before the sun comes up.

As the Medical Director of The Spine Hospital of Louisiana at The NeuroMedical Center, Dr. David Thomas, M.D., studies sleep patterns in adolescents. He said they need at least nine hours of sleep per night.

"We are putting our adolescents and preadolescents at risk for learning by making them get up too early in the morning," Dr. Thomas said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long urged middle and high schools to modify start times to help students get adequate sleep to improve their health and academic performance.

The study by the CDC revealed the average start time for those students across the country was just after 8 a.m. Louisiana reported the earliest average school start time, 7:40 a.m.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, middle school and high school students report to class at 7:10 a.m.

"That's probably two hours earlier than they need to be for maximum learning potential," Thomas said.

EBR Superintendent Warren Drake said bus transportation is a big reason for the early start times. Extracurricular activities also play a part. Drake found the study eye-opening and said he plans to evaluate the impact of start times on academic performance this school year.

"It's possible [the start times] could move back once we take a look at the athletic activities and take a look at what the needs are in the community and for parents," Drake said.

Dr. Thomas said setting that alarm back just one hour can produce remarkable results.

"If you are not awake you cannot learn," Drake said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later for maximum performance.

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