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BPS approves change to school start times

The Boston Public School system will push the start of the school day back for high schoolers.
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Changes are coming to Boston school start times. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki

Some Boston Public School students will soon be able to sleep in a bit longer before classes.

The Boston School Committee approved a change to school start times in a unanimous vote Wednesday night.

The move will push back the beginning of the school day for Boston high schoolers to after 8 a.m., according to Boston Public Schools (BPS), and will also alter elementary school dismissal times, so those kids can get home earlier.

Health advocates for years have said that teenagers may do better academically if they started classes at a later time.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has stated that for middle and high schoolers, the school day should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and that doing so will ensure that the students “begin the day awake, alert and ready to learn.”

There are 125 schools in the BPS system, serving more than 56,000 students. Those schools currently start around 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. That puts school dismissal times between 1:30 and 4:45 p.m.

Elementary schools often have the later start, meaning the school day for young kids ends after 4 p.m. Some parents and advocates have opposed that system because it puts buses on the road at the same time as rush hour, and often means that children are walking home as it gets dark in the winter. 

Changing one school’s start time also intrinsically affects the entire BPS district, officials said, because of how the bus system is interconnected. That means BPS can’t simply change some schools' start times and not factor in others.

BPS has been considering a change to start times for more than a year, and after Wednesday’s vote affirming the change, school officials are working with a team of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, referred to as an optimization team, to finalize the new schedules.

BPS is expected to announce the new school start and end times for the 2018-19 year later on Thursday.