Manitoba

Winnipeg School Division considers studying later start times to let high school students sleep

The Winnipeg School Division will vote on a motion to research the impacts that a later start time could have on students, staff and parents.

Mounting evidence suggests teens could benefit academically, mentally and physically from later start times

The Winnipeg School Division will consider a motion to research the impacts that a later start time could have on students, staff and parents. (Getty Images/Image Source)

High school students in Winnipeg School Division could get a little extra time to sleep.

The school division will vote on a motion to research the impacts that a later start time could have on students, staff and parents.

Cathy Collins, trustee for WSD Ward 6, read a notice of the motion at Monday night's school board meeting.

She says she's heard about a lot of recent research showing that high school students aren't getting enough sleep, which is impacting their capacity to learn.

"There's more interest now in brain development, so that's where this research comes from. I've heard this discussion on and off over the years, and I thought, maybe it was time to talk about it as a way to improving their learning," Collins told CBC News.

The motion calls on the administration to prepare a report on the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a later start time for high schools. It also calls for a survey of parents of high school students to gauge their interest.

The results would then be passed on to the division's policy/program committee for review.

Collins says she doesn't know what the new start time could be, and that this is just one way of starting the discussion.

The division has to consider possible impacts on students' lives outside of school, including work and extracurricular activities, as well as impacts on staff and costs, Collins said.

"I think it would make it easier for teaching them, they would get more out of it, then we would have greater success with our students," she said.

Research suggests benefits for teens

The push for later start times is relatively new in Canada, but follows a wave of international research suggesting that high school students naturally sleep differently from adults and younger children, falling asleep and waking up later than others, and that teens perform better when given extra time in the morning to sleep.

Numerous studies in the United States and Europe have found evidence of pervasive sleep deprivation among teens, which has been linked to challenges with everything from academic performance to obesity to mental illness.

In 2016, a team of researchers from McGill University published a report in the Journal of Sleep Research, which suggested that study participants aged 10 to 18 got an additional three minutes of sleep for every 10-minute delay in their school start time, and that those extra minutes bring the school day more in line with their biological clocks.

In the last few months, school divisions in other Canadian cities have considered similar changes. Last month, the Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ont. released a report that said six of London's 27 high schools were interested in a pilot project to test later start times.

The Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ont. and the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board in northwestern Ontario have have also recently looked into later start times for high school students.

The board will vote on the motion at its next meeting on Jan. 15.

Corrections

  • We initially reported that the school board passed the motion to study later start times. In fact, they won't vote on the motion until Jan. 15.
    Dec 19, 2017 10:20 AM CT

With files from The Canadian Press and Cameron MacLean