Orange County Public Schools debate delaying high school start times

The debate over delaying school start times for high-schoolers continues in Orange County.

The first bell rings at 7:20 a.m. for most high schools.

A recent survey from parents and educators reveals that one third are in favor of starting school 20 minutes later, but more than half want to keep things the way they are.

It’s an issue that has been brought up for years with no change.

Citing personal experience and research, the concern is over whether or not these students are getting enough sleep.

“As a parent who had students in high school, I found those times to not be conducive to my children being able to wake up and start school fresh and awake,” said Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends schools not start before 8:30 a.m., citing lack of sleep in teenagers is associated with depression, anxiety, problems with attention and learning and car accidents.

“Teenagers are pulling out of their driveways as other kids are walking to school,” school board member Karen Castor Dentel said. “It’s not an accident waiting to happen; accidents have happened. Last year, a high school student was shot and killed walking to school in the dark, and there were no witnesses.”

Now that Daylight Savings Time is over, the sun rises around 6:45 a.m., bringing more light to the morning commute for students.

While many start time options on the table could delay high school by as much as an hour, a third of parents and teachers who participated in a survey said they are in favor of starting 20 minutes later.

“A 20-minute shift will have minimal impact on after school activities or work schedules, or before or after care. But it can save lives,” Dentel said.

The next step will require more board meetings on how to fund these options for changing school start times.

A vote could happen as early as this month or December.