Record editorial: Park City School District must, at last, find a start times solution
A tired teen is a less successful teen.
Unfortunately, that describes many students at Park City High School or Treasure Mountain Junior High, who drag themselves out of bed at an early hour to make it to the first class of the day at around 7:30 a.m.
Count Utah legislators among those who hope the Park City School District, and others around the state, can find a solution. Lawmakers last week passed a nonbinding resolution encouraging school systems to explore implementing later start times at high schools so students can get more sleep and, in turn, perform better academically.
The Park City School District, of course, has had robust discussions about this topic in the past. In fact, advocates for later start times at the secondary schools thought the issue was settled in 2017, when the Park City Board of Education voted to make the change during the 2018-2019 school year.
The board ultimately rescinded that decision in the spring of 2018, citing factors like the disruption the change would cause for parents and a range of logistical issues.
But as the district continues to sketch its future during its latest master planning process, school leaders should revive the idea and focus on finding a way to make a delayed bell schedule work at PCHS, which will eventually house grades nine and up under a realignment plan approved in December.
The science is too clear to ignore. The research shows that, due to adolescent sleep cycles, most teens are not getting the roughly nine hours of sleep they need to function at a high level. When the first bell of the day is at 8:30 a.m. or later, allowing them to get at least one extra hour of sleep, teens perform better in school, miss class less frequently and are even less likely to become depressed.
The biggest hurdle, by far, is the negative effect pushing back start times at PCHS — and perhaps Treasure Mountain, depending on what officials ultimately decide to do with that building — would have on Kearns Boulevard traffic during the morning rush hour. With the Utah Department of Transportation already working with Park City and Summit County to fix the congested entryway, finding a way to accommodate the school-bound traffic needs to be a top priority.
In a district that considers itself one of the best in the state and that prides itself on putting students first, sticking with the status quo in the face of the facts simply doesn’t make sense, particularly when few people in the community dispute the benefits of later start times.
Our teens deserve the best chance at success we can give them. Let’s give them an extra hour of sleep and ensure they start the school day ready to learn.
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