PEABODY — With a start time of 7:15 a.m. at Peabody Veterans Memorial High, it's not surprising students are saying they would like more time in the morning to get ready for school.

A recently completed survey on changing school start times in the district showed 72 percent of the 614 students who responded said starting the school day later would make their morning routine easier. Most of the students who took the survey were high-school age.

And when asked about the potential benefits of having school start and end later, more than 83 percent of students responded: "I would get more sleep."

These are just some of the results of a survey meant to gauge whether or not Peabody should adjust its school start and end times, and what impacts this might have.

The School Committee is weighing medical research showing adolescents tend to go to bed later and wake up later, so a later start time may help them get more sleep, and in turn, help them do better in school.

However, school officials also are trying to figure out what the unintended consequences might be of later start and end times on child care, busing costs, after-school activities and sports.

Peabody High has one of the earliest report times on the North Shore at 7:15 a.m. Meanwhile, the elementary schools report at 8:50 a.m., and Higgins Middle School reports at 8:10 a.m.

The online survey that was made available for parents, students and educators to take earlier this month drew responses from about 614 students, almost three-quarters of whom reported they were in high school.

Students in grades six, seven and eight were also surveyed and represent the rest of this group.

School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne said the committee on Tuesday voted to keep the issue on the regular agenda so it can be discussed by the full board during its regular sessions. 

Dunne said in addition to the survey results, she read comments from parents who were concerned about older students who would be getting home later in the afternoon and not being able to provide childcare for their younger siblings. The high school dismisses at 1:40 p.m., and the elementary schools dismiss at 2:55 p.m.

Dunne said parents surveyed were also concerned about the impact on after-school activities.

"In my opinion, the biggest issue will be the cost of transportation," she said.

Peabody uses a three-tiered transportation model in which the buses pick up the high school students first, then come back around for middle schoolers, and then make one more run for the elementary school students. There is a tight turnaround time for buses between the Higgins and the city's eight elementary schools, Dunne said.

"We would need to look at how our buses are used on these routes," she said. 

More on the survey results

Of the 1,038 parents who responded, 35 percent had high school students, while the rest had students in middle and elementary grades. The largest group of parents, by grade, represented was kindergarten, at 15 percent.

However, of the 614 students that responded to the survey, 72 percent said they were in high school.

Dunne said she would have liked to have seen more of a breakdown by grade of the parents' responses.

When it came to how much sleep students get on a school night, 34 percent said they get less than six hours of sleep.

Another 46 percent said they get between six to seven hours of sleep on a school night, and another 20 percent said they get between seven and eight hours of sleep on a school night.

A little more than 42 percent of students said they feel sleepy or sleep-deprived at school every day.

These findings contrast with how parents viewed how much sleep their children get on a school night.

About 30 percent of parents reported their children average between eight to nine hours of sleep on a school night, and 26.4 percent said their kids get seven to eight hours of shut-eye.

Just 18.5 percent of parents reported their kids get between six and seven hours of sleep on a school night and only 5.8 percent of parents said their kids get less than six hours of sleep on a school night.

Nearly all of the students surveyed, 94 percent, said they need an alarm clock or someone to wake them up.

More than 72 percent of parents said their child needs an alarm clock or someone to wake them up every morning for school.

On the question of the impact of having a later start time, nearly 32 percent of parents said, "It would make the morning easier," while another 31.8 percent said, "It would have no significant impact." 

More than half of parents, 52 percent, said the major reason to start the high school later should be the "effect on academics."

When looking at the major reasons to start the high school later, nearly 60 percent of students said the "effect on academics," 56 percent said the "effect on social emotional health," and half said the "effect on physical health."

A total of 192 Peabody educators, more than 81 percent who were teachers, responded, and nearly 57 percent said they have between one and five students who appear sleepy or lethargic on a daily basis.

About 40 percent of educators said students are likely to be less sleepy in class by starting the high school 20 to 50 minutes later. However, nearly 43 percent said that ending the school day later would make their afternoon routine "significantly worse."

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.

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