Vancouver students may benefit from later school start

About seven per cent of Vancouver high school students are late for school or skip out of their first class of the day, but still make it to the second period, according to Vancouver School Board data.

That represents about 1,600 students every school day who are not making it to classes with an 8:30 a.m.-to-8:40 a.m. start time.

CBC News analyzed attendance records for all the secondary schools in Vancouver and also found that as students get older, their first-period attendance worsens.

About four per cent are absent from that first class in Grade 8, but that rises to nine per cent in the senior year of high school.

The statistics do not include sanctioned absences, such as those for which excuse notes are provided.

Windermere Secondary School, University Hill Secondary and Lord Byng Senior Secondary have the best morning attendance, with fewer than five per cent, on average, missing first period.

Vancouver Technical Secondary School, King George Secondary and Britannia Secondary School have the highest absence rate for first period.

For teens, sleeping in isn't just about behaviour, it's biology. Research has shown that during puberty, the sleep hormone melatonin is secreted later in the evening.

And not only are teens compelled to stay up late, they still also need more sleep than adults. So, when the alarm rings in the morning, they're still groggy.

Grade 11 student Griffin Reichl would like to see similar changes in Vancouver.

"Well, I hope to get school to start, like, at least an hour later,” Reichl said. “I'm fine with having it end later. I'd rather get the more sleep. Right now it’s more vital."

Schools in some other Canadian jurisdictions have adjusted their schedules later. Some in Regina now start at 9 a.m. and one in Toronto starts at 10 a.m.

The Vancouver School Board is open to the idea, according to Superintendent Steve Cardwell.

“We're interested. We think if the research is showing that students do better, their behaviour is better by having a little more sleep. Perhaps we should be looking at this.”

Cardwell noted that such a change would require extensive consultation, as it would delay after-school activities and alter work hours for school staff.

Source: Vancouver School Board/CBC

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