Most Beaufort County middle and high school students will enjoy later start times next year, following a school board vote Tuesday night.
The Beaufort County school board voted to change the start times for middle and high schools, aside from the Hilton Head Island cluster, back to about 9 a.m. from 8 a.m. The new bell schedule for the 2016-2017 school year also moves elementary school classes up to 8 a.m. from about 8:30 a.m.
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The change passed by a vote of 10-1, with board member Michael Rivers opposing.
Hilton Head Island school start times will remain the same, as they were already changed in a pilot initiative that began two years ago. The success of that experiment and a host of research that shows adolescents perform better academically with more sleep, convinced superintendent Jeff Moss and the majority of the board to make the change district-wide.
“We’re seeing fewer students late to school, fewer disciplinary referrals and more students on the Honor Roll,” said Hilton Head Island High Principal Amanda O’Nan. “I can’t imagine going back.”
In addition to academic results, scientific studies have shown sleep-deprived teenagers are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems, and are at an increased risk of being in automobile wrecks, according to the district. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later.
“We’re adjusting our schedules as adults in order to do what’s best for children,” Moss said. “Teens are being asked to focus and learn, and in some cases get in a car and drive to school, at a time when their brains are having difficulty staying awake.”
Individual Beaufort County schools will determine their precise daily schedules later this spring and communicate those schedules to parents.