Chatham County School Start Time Experiment Continues

Early school start time doesn't put adolescents on fast track of learning

One week into the new school year and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is saying most middle and high schools start too early. The government health organization based in Atlanta says the early start times could be a problem in terms of some students maximizing their academic potential. The report from the CDC, released Thursday afternoon, points to studies that say middle and high schools should start at 8:30 a-m, but fewer than one in five do in the United States. 42 states report that 75 to 100 percent of the public schools in their respective states start before 8:30 and Georgia and South Carolina are on that list.


The report reveals that leading studies have long shown that the early bird doesn’t always have the advantage when it comes to school start times. Experts say it’s fine at the elementary school level, but by middle and high school, adolescent brains need a little more sleep to optimize learning. Chatham County School Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Lockamy, says he’s done significant research on the topic. ” There’s no question that a later start time uh, is to, ah, provide better academic achievement and better student success.” said Lockamy.  The report says Georgia’s and South Carolina have identical average start times: 8:03AM. But studies have long shown that a little more sleep is better in the adolescent phase of brain development. But Dr. Lockamy says change can not occur without parental support because the start of the school day is driven by lifestyle, not learning. ” What you have there are the conflicts where the older students look after the babies here in the afternoon, but if the older students are still in school when these are out, so that’s where you get a lot of push back from the people.” Lockamy said.


Dr. Lockamy points to an experiment underway in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. He says following recommended start times is one of the motives behind last year’s move to place three groups of schools on new start schedules.  In the trial, elementary schools start earlier than middle and high schools. Beach High School is one of the schools where a 7:00am start time was pushed back to the recommended 8:30am start time. Juniors, Dale Pickens and Robert Gadson say the later start time at their school is making a difference for them. The pair says it’s better than their freshman year when the start bell rang a lot earlier. ” At 7:30..dat’s morning an everybody ain’t got they brain on straight…so 8:30 is enough time for us to get ready, so our brain will be moving, so as we come to school at 8:30, everybody be knowin’ what to do and our brain be already on track.” said Pickens. Gadson says he can feel the difference in his brain. “I feel like I be, have more energy, like once I done woke up.” Gadson said. Dr. Lockamy says the start times for school systems are dictated by parental needs and the calendars for extra-curricular activities. Pushing the start time back impact things like students who work or care for siblings after school, sports practices, and other outside events.


Parents and not policymakers dictate the start time for schools according to Lockamy. ” When the final vote comes uh. The people are the ones who determine that start times, but actually, it’s very solid that the later start time does produce better academics.” Lockamy said. The CDC report says Louisiana has the earliest average school start time of 7:40 a-m and Alaska had the latest, 8:33 a-m. Dr. Lockamy says if their *experiment* works, Chatham County’s trial run of later bell times for it’s middle and high schoolers could spread to other schools beyond the Islands and Beach groups right now. In the meantime, there are things parents can do to help kids get the proper rest. Click on the link below and it will connect you to the CDC advice to help your teen get the right amount of sleep to maximize their academic performance in school.

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