Burrell High School to start 35 minutes later this coming school year
Students at Burrell High School are getting a gift from the school board and administration for the coming school year: another half-hour of sleep.
The school board approved changing the starting time for students at the high school to 8:10 a.m. — 25 minutes later than the traditional 7:45 a.m. start time.
Superintendent Shannon Wagner requested the change.
“The benefit to this schedule change is it gives the teachers a little more time to plan, review data and prepare for the day,” Wagner said.
In addition, she said the students will benefit by getting a little more shuteye, which should help them through the day.
Burrell's move follows several others in the region and across the nation.
Locally, Fox Chapel Area, Hempfield Area, North Allegheny and Woodland Hills are among the districts either experimenting with or considering later start times for high school students.
And there's lots of data showing students benefit from getting more time to sleep.
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to ensure students get enough sleep and maintain healthy sleeping habits.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m.
In one of several studies on the matter, researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement found that later start times correlate with increased academic performance for high school students.
Tardiness, substance abuse and depression also dropped, according to the study.
“The bigger swing will be for the kids who drive,” Wagner said. “They won't have to be here until 8 a.m.”
Burrell High School Principal John Boylan said the first bus would arrive at 7:35 a.m.
He agreed that the time change is a positive step.
“I think it is going to benefit our staff in a lot of ways,” Boylan said.
In particular, the change should add between 20 and 30 minutes to morning planning meetings, which Boylan said will be “invaluable.”
No change at other schools
Wagner said there will be no change in the starting time for the middle and elementary schools and dismissal time will not change at any of the schools.
She said the added time will come from doing away with the morning homeroom period. When the first bell rings in the morning at Burrell, it will be for students to go to their first period class.
More time will be gained by shaving the transition time for students to go from one class to the next from four minutes to three minutes.
Also, one minute will be shaved from each of the seven class periods.
“I'd like the opportunity to try it,” Wagner said. “We're asking for a year, one year.”
She said she will work out details of the plan with the Burrell Education Association, the bargaining unit that represents the teachers.
Wagner and Boylan said they will begin notifying parents of the change in July. Wagner said she would like to do that by mailing a flier to each high school student's home.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer. Tribune-Review staff writer Jamie Martines contributed to this report.