A plan by Bath-area school officials to possibly start classes later in the morning has attracted interest from surrounding school districts.

Regional School Unit 1, which includes Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich, is exploring starting classes for students in grades 6-12 in the 8:30-8:45 a.m. range, about an hour later than current start times.

Assistant Superintendent Katie Joseph, a member of a committee exploring the idea, said in a recent newsletter to the school community there’s “overwhelming research … about how teenage sleep is directly linked to mental, social, and academic health and well-being.

“Given the worry our society has around mental health, this committee found the research to be a very compelling change that could better RSU 1’s student population.”

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.”


More and more school districts are switching to later start times. 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. California and Florida recently passed laws mandating an 8:30 a.m. start time for high schools.

Maine Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, last year introduced a bill that would require Maine high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., though the bill has stalled.

Some teachers’ groups oppose later start times, and the National Education Association teachers’ union has said they can complicate after-school activities, including outdoor sports that rely on the sun being out, and disrupt the schedules of working parents.

The Maine Department of Education recently organized a work group that reviewed instituting a statewide start time mandate like California and Florida, but it ultimately rejected the idea.

“The reality is that the cost is often too high to implement innovative solutions in our more rural schools,” the group wrote in a report issued last week. “Different start times for different schools in (a school district) means adding bus runs, which is costly, especially given the acute bus driver shortage that plagues Maine and the nation.

“With such a strong tradition of local responsibility for public education, our individual school districts need to be the ones determining what changes need to be made within the identified needs of their students and what’s best for their community. Then, through the local democratic process, they should determine the best course of action within the local budget constraints. We need flexibility to do what is right for individual communities.”


Currently, classes at Morse High School and Bath Tech start at 7:40 a.m., while classes at Bath Middle School start at 7:30 a.m.

Joseph said the committee is gathering input from the school community on how the later start times would affect athletics, child care, school staff and the regional school districts that send students to Bath Tech. The committee plans to survey students and parents as well.

Joseph said she and Superintendent Patrick Manuel recently met with school officials from Brunswick, Freeport and the Topsham area about exploring later start times.

“They’re interested,” she recently told the school board. “It would be a lot easier if (switching to later start times) was regional.”

Joseph said the committee is expected to present a proposal for later start times to the school board this spring. If the board approves the measure, the new start times would take effect in the 2025-2026 school year.

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