Study says students benefit from later school day start time

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) A new study by the University of Minnesota surveyed thousands of students, showing those who start the day later in the morning had better attendance, test scores and overall health.

The study surveyed more than 9,000 students from eight high schools in three states with start times varying from 7:30 am to 8:55 a.m.

It found that schools starting later had better attendance, standardized test scores and overall health.

One school in Wyoming studied saw a 70 percent drop in car crashes after switching to a later start time.

Roger Betzold, principal at McDonell High School in Chippewa Falls says telling students to go to bed earlier is not the solution.

"It just doesn't work. Because kids are involved with computers, communicating back and forth through Twitter or Facebook and you're just not going to get that to happen. There seem to be more night owls then when I was growing up," says Betzold.

Zach Ruf, a junior at McDonell is an exception, getting eight hours of sleep or more each night.

"It helps me stay focused, during the class day because our classes are so much longer so it helps me to prepare myself to be ready for the long day," explains Ruf.

But not everyone has the time.

"So much emphasis is put on getting good grades and then sports, and if we work and home life, things like that, all of it adds up and I feel like the stress builds up," says student Ambelique Matthews.

Betzold said he would support a later time, but is concerned bussing and delaying after school activities with a later dismissal would be challenging.

"It's a thought at this point, but I certainly would support starting later and would support that for our kids especially. The quality of learning time that we would gain from that and their alertness and ability to focus would be much greater," says Betzold.

Betzold says because McDonnell is a voucher school, they have to abide by the DPI's minimum hours law, and they also can't delay some outdoor sports practice into the dark.

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