Will it be more difficult to retain or hire teachers with later start?

There is no evidence that attrition increases or recruiting becomes more difficult in schools that make the change. 

 In fact, in 2011, the National Education Association, the teachers' union, issued a resolution on Adequate Rest: "The National Education Association believes that overall health and performance are best achieved with adequate rest on a regular basis. The Association supports school schedules that follow research-based recommendations regarding the sleep patterns of age groups. The Association further supports programs within the education framework that promote understanding of the importance of adequate rest. (2011)."

Hundreds of districts in 40+ states have changed start times, every major medical organization and the teachers' own union agree that the evidence overwhelmingly supports later start, and several schools in Fairfield County have changed or are in the process of changing. It is also important to keep in mind that New Canaan has just as many elementary and middle school teachers commuting for later start and dismissal times and we don't hear about recruiting issues for those teachers. Teachers are aware of the trend toward later start times, both nationally and here in Fairfield County, and they surely recognize that, given the trend, basing an employment decision on the start time of a school would be short-sighted.

I hear that Greenwich's start time change has been problematic and they might revert to 7:30

There is no indication that Greenwich will revert back to 7:30 start times. Their 2018-2019 budget contains all provisions for the later start times. The Sleep for Success Westport website has done a great job of explaining what’s going on in Greenwich, what we can learn from them, why they are unique, and how, actually, Greenwich kids are doing better, which was the point of the change. We have copied that detail here: 

There was a good op-ed published in the Greenwich times regarding this issue, which you can see here. We’ve made some additional points and provided details below.

First - and in spite of the initial logistical difficulties which are addressed in more detail below – there’s no real evidence that the new schedule in Greenwich is unsuccessful. As the author of the op-ed explained, “[a]ll leading medical authorities and experts in the United States have spoken in one voice recommending an 8:30 start a.m. time or later” based on extensive evidence from multiple fields. Some parents have claimed that the 8:30 a.m. start time is worse than the old 7:30 a.m. start time, but this is anecdotal evidence. And there is just as much, if not more, anecdotal evidence from other parents indicating the opposite. For example, one mom of two high-achieving GHS students recently reported that (a) her kids get their homework done earlier because they are more alert and efficient (b) they go to bed at the same time or earlier, and (c) they have not had a single sick day. Another parent was thrilled that her son, an all-state musician, is sleeping more, learning new pieces faster, and performing better than ever.
What’s more, Greenwich High School’s sports teams and clubs have been unusually successful since the 8:30 a.m. start time was implemented. For example:

  • The football team was undefeated in regular season – which hasn’t happened since 2006 – and made it to the state finals,
  • The women’s volleyball team won both the state and FCIAC titles for the first time in program history,
  • The women’s swimming and diving team won the FCIAC and state championships, with both individual swimmers and relays breaking long-standing state and team records,
  • The men’s soccer team won the FCIAC championship,
  • The women’s cross-country team won its first FCIAC title since 1981 and came in second at the state championships,
  • The men’s crew team had their best results in the history of the program at the Head of the Charles,
  • The Model UN Club won eight awards at the Princeton University Model United Nations Conference, and
  • The GHS debate team came in first place at the Connecticut Debate Tournament

These outcomes make sense because students with later school start times get more sleep, and students that get more and better sleep perform better in academics and athletics.

Second, Greenwich experienced some unique logistical difficulties that probably would not occur at all or to the same extent in Westport.

  • General: It is possible that the implementation team in Greenwich could have prevented some problems from occurring through better planning in the 14 months prior to the start of the 2017 – 2018 school year. The Greenwich School District had new administrators in key positions, including the Superintendent, Chief Operating Officer, and head of transportation. The start time project manager also left the school district and was never replaced. It is unlikely that our seasoned administrators and implementation committee would make the same mistakes, especially with the benefit of knowing the hiccups that occurred in other towns like Greenwich.
  • Transportation: Some of the initial bussing problems in Greenwich could have been ameliorated by better planning. Reportedly, administrators made modifications to the school bus consultants’ plan on their own. Then there was no dry run of the new bus routes. Had this occurred, bus drivers probably wouldn’t have gotten lost or been late and administrators would have realized in advance that a main road needed to be repaved to accommodate some of the new, larger busses. As explained in the op-ed, transportation-related problems have been ironed out: “Bus ridership is up sharply, presumably because students no longer have to choose between catching a very early bus or driving to school so they can get more sleep. With the addition of three extra busses and some route fine-tuning, 100 percent of busses are now arriving before the bell time in the morning.”
  • Traffic Congestion: School start times aside, Greenwich High School has a difficult location for purposes of traffic, regardless of what time school starts and ends. The school is near I-95 and right off what is effectively Post Road in Greenwich. The town is also in a tough spot for purposes of traveling to games and competitions after school. Greenwich is on the western border of the FCIAC Conference, which means that travel to away games is always in the direction of rush hour traffic. Westport is more centrally located, and we can ask our independent school bus consultants to come up with start-time scenarios that are traffic neutral or possibly even improve traffic flow.
  • Field Lighting: The football team ended up having some post-regular-season practices with little daylight. With respect to field lighting, Greenwich High School is in a uniquely difficult situation due to more burdensome zoning regulations and a litigious neighbor. All officials were aware of these issues over a year before the 2017-2018 school year, but the school board didn’t approach the P&Z to install temporary field lights until October 2017 (this application hasn’t been decided and football season is over). And the district only recently decided to pursue litigation to relax the restrictions on the high school field lighting. The district could have started these efforts a year earlier or explored other solutions such as using nearby fields and lighting at Central Middle School, installing a temporary bubble over the GHS fields, or reducing the football’s team practice time from 3 hours to 2.5 hours. Sports are an important component of student life, and later school start times would improve our athlete’s performance dramatically. Our excellent school administrators work together and with local youth athletic organizations to iron out implementation logistics related to athletics.
  • Missed Classes for Athletes: As mentioned previously, Greenwich is on the western border of the FCIAC. The town’s sports teams already have to travel greater distances than Westport student athletes because Westport is more centrally located. And Greenwich makes every one of these trips in the direction of rush hour traffic. Our student athletes would not have to leave as early to get to away games. For the students that do have to leave early, however, why not use the new start times as impetus for having any class recorded that must be missed for athletes to attend away games. These classes would be known well in advance, so it wouldn’t be burdensome to plan, and the technology involved to do so is relatively inexpensive. If we could do this, our athletes might end up “missing” less class than they did before the start times changed.

Won't teens just go to bed later?

Not likely! Many districts around the country have changed start times and the fact is that teens get more sleep when start times are later. Wilton, for example, changed start times in 2006. Bedtimes remained constant and wake times shifted later. A 40 minute change in start time resulted in 35 minutes of additional sleep on school nights.

"Just as people who are hungry will eat more when given the opportunity, people who are sleep deprived will get more sleep if you give them a chance." Rafael Pelayo, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine

Is there really a problem to solve here in New Canaan? Aren't our kids OK?

The changes in sleep cycle and increased need for sleep have been observed in all populations of human adolescents, as well as in many other mammals. Most teens, and New Canaan teens are no exception, need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night and getting less than that is harmful.

In 2006, the League of Women Voters surveyed teens and parents in New Canaan and found:

77% of New Canaan high schoolers get 6 – 7 hours of sleep on school nights, according to the LWV surveys. With a 2-3 hour sleep deficit every night these high school students have 10 - 15 hours of accumulated sleep debt by Friday.
— The League of Women Voters of New Canaan Report on Adolescent Sleep Needs And School Start Times 2006
74% of 9th-12th grade New Canaan parents said that lack of sleep causes stress for their child.
— The League of Women Voters of New Canaan Report on Adolescent Sleep Needs And School Start Times 2006

 Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair creativity, abstract thinking, problem-solving, innovation, concentration, attention, decision-making, coordination, and motor response times. It can cause irritability, moodiness, emotional instability, aggressiveness and stress. Insufficient sleep reduces the body's response to immunization and its natural ability to fight off infections. Sleep is a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use and weight control. Lack of sleep contributes to factors associated with heart disease and stroke. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of stimulant and alcohol use. Sleep deprivation magnifies alcohol's effects on the body, increasing impairment of cognitive abilities and motor coordination. 

Don't teenagers need to learn to get up early to prepare for the "real world"?  

Sleep is a need, not a luxury; the only thing a lack of sleep prepares you for is to function below your potential. Asking a teenager to suffer sleep deprivation now in order to prepare for the real world is like asking a toddler to give up his nap in order to prepare for Kindergarten. Adolescents need about 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep a night, which is more than adults need. In addition, their sleep cycle shifts about two hours later, so that they have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m. These changes occur in all human adolescents (and many other mammals) and are temporary. When they are adults in the real world, their sleep patterns will be adult sleep patterns. It is not coddling to allow a teenager to get enough sleep any more than it is coddling to allow them to get enough to eat.

Even universities have started to push class start times back. It is hard to do a randomized control study of the impact of start times - most high schools can't have half the kids start at 7:30 and the other at 8:30. But the US Air Force Academy did it and researchers found that the first year students who started after 8 performed better not just in the morning but all day:

"Results show that starting the school day 50 minutes later has a significant positive effect on student achievement, which is roughly equivalent to raising teacher quality by one standard deviation." 

I'm worried that our sports programs will be disrupted. 

The CIAC, New Canaan's athletic conference, has a position on the issue:  “research shows that switching to later school start times does create a more optimal learning environment and improves student achievement for high school athletes... [with later start times] interscholastic athletic activities can continue to be offered, with appropriate accommodations, within any reasonable school day structure... To do less would be to elevate high school athletics to an importance greater than that which is its true purpose.”  

Some worry that athletes will have to occasionally miss class to make it to away games on time. However, within our athletic conference, several districts have changed their start times or are working on it. Greenwich and Wilton start later. Ridgefield will do so in 2019. Westport and Norwalk are working on it. The momentum is going in only one direction and as other towns adjust their start times, game scheduling will be a non-issue. Although we think later start can be implemented without causing athletes to miss anymore class time than they do now, we would also argue that the enormous benefit of getting an extra hour of sleep every day of the week far outweighs the downside of an occasional missed hour of class time during a given athletic season. 

Furthermore, athletes and coaches around the world are now aware that adequate sleep is one of the most effective ways to enhance performance and reduce injuries. Christine Meier Schatz of Sleep for Success Westport created the visual below to show that sleep is a powerful sports performance enhancer. 



Can't my child just make up for lost sleep on the weekends?

The first evidence of sleep deprivation is sleeping in on the weekends.
— Rafael Pelayo MD, Stanford University School of Medicine

Changing sleep patterns on weekends leads to a phenomenon that sleep scientists call social jetlag.

Let’s take the example of a teenager who needs to get up for school at 6 AM with difficulty but arises, feeling refreshed, a month into her school vacation at 9 AM. This implies three hours of social jet lag on every school day, equivalent to the jet lag of flying from San Francisco to New York five days a week. However, unlike traveling, there is no real habituation. Being jet-lagged every day sounds pretty awful, and it is the state the majority of our teens spend every day in.
— Craig Canapari MD, Director of Yale Pediatric Sleep Center

Won't teachers just move office hours and club hours to the morning?

This is certainly a concern and we have learned from other school districts, such as Palo Alto, CA, that it is important to protect morning time as part of a Later Start implementation. However, even if some teachers or clubs did meet in the mornings, this is optional, does not happen every day, and does not systematically harm every single student the way a 7:30 am start does.