Utah lawmaker makes push for later school start times

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SALT LAKE CITY – Should students start school a little later to get some extra zzz’s? Rep. Carol Spackman Moss says yes, and she’s got science on her side.

Before Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, became a lawmaker, she taught English at Olympus High School. She saw firsthand how lack of sleep impacts students in the classroom.

“The biggest problem I had when I was teaching high school, was not with bad behavior, it was with kids falling asleep,” she said.

Spackman Moss is pushing for later school start times so teens can get a good night’s rest. The former teacher filed a resolution calling on her colleagues to study the issue.

Doctors recommend teens get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, but Spackman Moss says they’re hard wired to stay up late. With school start times as early as 7:30 a.m., teens suffer physically and mentally.

“Today that adds to even more problems - depression, anxiety, kids with learning disabilities, kids with ADHD often have sleep issues anyway,” Spackman Moss said.

She cites research from the American Medical Association who recommends middle and high school students begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Students are happier, less, aggressive and ready to learn.

“One thing is certain, students don’t need more testing. They need more sleep,” the lawmaker said.

The Granite School District has been tossing the idea around for several years now.

“We’re certainly open to the research. We’ve reviewed it. We recognize there’s a need,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman Granite School District.

A big sticking point is the cost. If start times were shifted for all 68,000 students in Granite District, it would cost $7-10 million to add more buses and bus drivers.

Another concern is convenience. Students would have less time for after school activities and there’d be a conflict for students who have after school jobs.

“We really need to decide what’s the most important thing to us. Kid’s sleep is something we should certainly take into consideration,” Horsley said.

Spackman Moss is eager to move the conversation forward with her colleagues at the upcoming legislative session.