The Bath-area school board is considering joining a growing number of Maine school districts in pushing back high school start times in the name of improving student health.

The Regional School Unit 1 board started exploring the idea around the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It formed a committee that is proposing moving the start time at Morse High School from 7:40 a.m. to around 8:40 a.m.

“It’s pretty astounding how positively more sleep impacts students this age,” Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph, who sits on the committee, told the board this week.

Joseph said the committee is gathering more information about how the proposal would affect teachers, athletics and out-of-district schools that RSU 1 students attend, among other aspects. The proposed new start time could change, and the committee could make a formal recommendation to the board as early as this school year, she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend high schools start at 8:30 a.m. at the earliest. High schoolers need at least 8 hours of sleep, according to the CDC, which cites early school start times as a barrier.

“Not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks, including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance,” the CDC says. “During puberty, adolescents become sleepy later at night and need to sleep later in the morning as a result in shifts in biological rhythms. … During the school week, school start times are the main reason students wake up when they do. The combination of late bedtimes and early school start times results in most adolescents not getting enough sleep.”


The CDC reported about 80% of high schools across the country start earlier than 8:30 a.m. — though more and more school districts are switching to later start times.

California and Florida recently passed laws mandating an 8:30 a.m. start time for high schools. In Maine, high schools in Portland, South Portland, Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Yarmouth and Cumberland, among others, have switched to start times around 8:30 a.m. in recent years.

Some teachers’ groups oppose later start times, and the National Education Association teachers’ union has said they can have “ripple effects,” like complicating after-school activities, including outdoor sports that rely on the sun being out and disrupting the schedules of working parents.

Brunswick state Sen. Mattie Daughtry earlier this year sponsored a bill that would require Maine high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

“Just like eating a balanced diet and staying active, getting enough sleep is vital for teens’ health and development,” Daughtry said in a statement at the time. “If we want to give our kids the best chance possible for success, we need to make sure school works for them. We’ve long known that school is about more than essays and textbooks. Let’s help our students learn to the best of their ability and potential, while also giving them tools for a healthy and successful life.”

Her bill stalled, but lawmakers approved forming a working group to study the issue. The group is comprised of members of the Maine Department of Education, school administrators, parents and teachers; they are expected to present their findings to the Legislature in February.

“Our committee would love if the state made this a mandate because it would make everything a lot easier,” Joseph said. “But everyone, when we discussed this, felt strongly we should move forward with our research and discussions to see where we got.”

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