SOUTH PORTLAND — Middle school students will start classes 35 minutes later and high school students will start 40 minutes later beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the school board decided this week.

By unanimous vote, start times will change next fall from 7:55 to 8:30 a.m. at Mahoney and Memorial middle schools, and from 7:30 to 8:10 a.m. at South Portland High School. Start times at the city’s five elementary schools will change slightly, from 9 to 9:05 a.m.

South Portland is the latest Maine community to join a national trend. The new start times were developed over the last several months after a study group identified various benefits, challenges and considerations related to earlier start times, including effects on students’ transportation and athletics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that insufficient sleep among adolescents is an important public health issue and found that delaying school start times could improve students’ health, safety and academic achievement.

The study group conducted community surveys, which found that 63 percent of parents of middle- and high-school students, and 52 percent of school staff members supported later start times at the middle and high schools.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]≠≠≠