BRIDGEWATER, NJ - With almost 1,300 student responses and more than 2,000 parent responses, the survey sent out in spring 2019 regarding later school start times for high school and middle school students found that 44 percent strongly agree moving school start times would improve students’ physical and mental health.
The district has been investigating the potential for later school start times for the high school and middle school for over a year, and have held presentations regarding potential bus changes, as well as forums with other districts that have worked to implement this change.
No changes or decisions have been made at this time, and the board of education has acknowledged that the earliest it could be implemented if the district moves forward would be the 2021-2022 school year.
The survey was sent out to students in grades seven through 12, as well as parents and staff. A total of 883 staff members responded, 1,291 students responded and 2,148 parents responded across the district.
Among parents, 24 percent of those with high school students said their kids get seven hours of sleep a night on school nights, and 18 percent get six hours of sleep a night, for an average of 6.6 hours. According to the survey, about eight to 10 hours is recommended, and 87 percent of students in high school get less than that.
Among parents of middle school students, they said 23 percent of students get seven hours of sleep a night on school nights, and another 23 percent get eight hours a night on school nights. In total, according to the results, 65 percent of students get less than eight hours of sleep a night.
The survey asked parents whether they believe moving the middle and high school start times would improve students’ physical and mental health, and 52 percent of high school parents said they strongly agree, while 57 percent of middle school parents strongly agreed.
Also among parents, 62 percent of high school parents said they think school start times and alignment with their biological clocks is a big factor in learning and health, while 66 percent of middle school parents said it is a big factor.
Students responses to the survey were somewhat in line with what the parents said.
About 18 percent of high school students said they get six hours of sleep a night, and 16 percent said they get five-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, with 94 percent getting less than eight hours. For middle school students, 18 percent said they get eight hours of sleep a night, 17 percent get seven-and-a-half, and a total of 73 percent get less than eight hours.
Students were asked in the survey whether, in the past two weeks, they have struggled to stay awake or fallen asleep in class. Fifty-four percent of high school students said they struggled to stay awake, and 23 percent said they didn’t.
Among middle school students, 44 percent said they struggled to stay awake, and 41 percent said they did not.
In asking students if moving start times later would improve physical and mental health, 52 percent of high school students strongly agreed and 7 percent strongly disagreed. Among middle school students, 57 percent strongly agreed and 7 percent strongly disagreed.
Finally, the survey was sent to staff members in the district, and asked whether students appear awake and alert during first period. Among high school staff members, 45 percent said yes and 41 percent said no.
Among middle school staff members, 60 percent answered yes and 29 percent no. For intermediate school staff, 90 percent answered yes and 4 percent no, and among primary school staff, 87 percent answered yes and 4 percent said no.
Staff was also asked how often they have seen students fall asleep during class. At the high school level, 31 percent said sometimes and 30 percent said rarely, while at the middle school level, 39 percent said rarely and 20 percent said sometimes.
At the intermediate school level, 54 percent said rarely and 21 percent said never, while at the primary level, 45 percent said rarely and 32 percent said never.
Among all responses for parents, students and staff, when asked overall if moving school start times would improve physical and mental health, a total of 44 percent strongly agreed, 25 percent agreed and 16 percent were neutral on the subject.
Discussions are expected to continue on the subject of later school start times at future board of education meetings. The board is expected to release information soon about getting involved in a committee regarding school start times, which was recently approved by resolution.
For more information on the school start times discussion, visit brrsd.org.