Researchers to study later start at high school

Researchers to study later start at high school

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GLENS FALLS -- The high school will begin classes 45 minutes later in September to give students more sleep -- a change that has drawn the interest of researchers from St. Lawrence University.

The research team conducts studies on sleep patterns and has started one at the high school to determine how a later start time affects students’ academic performance and health.

Researchers are looking for students to volunteer for the study, which includes answering questions about sleep times, caffeine use and whether they like to stay up late or wake up early in the morning.

Students who participate will also have to complete a diary to keep track of their sleep patterns for a week. Students will be paid for their participation using grant money the researchers obtained, officials said.

When the district agreed last year to change the start time for September 2012, it intended to also collect data to find out how the change was working, said Superintendent Paul Jenkins.

The district plans on conducting its own surveys, but will also review the data from the research team, Jenkins said.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to partner with St. Lawrence,” Jenkins said. “I’m very interested in the outcome. I think it will be good information for us to have.”

A committee of school leaders and staff spent more than a year studying later start times and its effects on students. The probe began when teachers saw a larger number of students were tired and inattentive during first period.

The high school starts classes at 7:45 a.m. The committee recommended changing the start time to 8:30 a.m. because they believed it would give students extra rest, thus improving their academic performance, mood and health.

The conclusion drew some critics, including students, teachers and members of the school board.

The board, however, approved the change.

Elizabeth Collins, the assistant high school principal who spearheaded the committee’s study, said she contacted a St. Lawrence University professor who specialized in sleep studies.

When the professor, Pamela Thacher, heard about the start time change, she was interested in performing a study, Collins said.

“The professors are interested in teen sleep patterns,” Collins said. “Her goal is to look at this data that she’s collecting to see if the later sleep time helps students.”

The high school has already aligned its schedule for the upcoming school year with the middle school, which is located on the same campus.

The district has also undergone a study on the traffic patterns of the high school-middle school campus. The results will be discussed at Monday’s school board meeting.

The St. Lawrence research team collected data from students in April, and will do it again next November and April of 2013.

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