Hit that snooze button, students: Corner Brook schools moving start times 25 minutes later

Students in Corner Brook have the chance for a little more shuteye in the mornings, starting this fall.

Change designed to make students more alert in class, says English School District

Schools in Corner Brook will have their morning start times pushed back to help give students the chance to get their full eight hours of sleep. (Shutterstock)

Students in Corner Brook will be able to get a little more shuteye in the morning, starting this fall.

Corner Brook Intermediate and Corner Brook Regional High will be moving class start times back 25 minutes — to 8:45 a.m. for the junior high, and 9:20 a.m. for the high school.

This is a shift that occurs during adolescence and then shifts back. So we are looking at it as, we need to do the best for our children that are at that age group at this time.- Donna Miller Fry

Donna Miller Fry, assistant director of education with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District's western region, told CBC's Corner Brook Morning Show the move is due to "overwhelming research" about sleep patterns in adolescents.

Shifting sleep patterns

"It's not new research," she said. "We've known for some time that circadian rhythms in adolescents shift a little bit, so it's really difficult for adolescents to get to sleep at night."

For students to get a full eight hours of sleep, they often need to sleep in a little bit later in the morning.

"So what we want to do is give them some extra time in the morning to sleep so that they're able to get the sleep that they need before coming to school."

Classes at Corner Brook Regional High School will start at 9:20 a.m. starting this fall. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

More recent research has suggested that shifting start times later makes "profound differences" in achievement and behaviour, said Miller Fry.

"You know how it is when you're foggy-brained and you're sitting in class. You're not able to take in information in the way that you want to and achieve the way you want to in school, and so we're seeing the research that suggests that that little bit of extra sleep really helps them respond better to everything that's going on in their school during the school day."

Pushback — and support — from parents

Since announcing the change, Miller Fry acknowledged, she's heard plenty of pushback from parents who think it's a bad move that won't help students prepare for the working world.

"I can see where that argument comes from, but the research is telling us that these circadian rhythm shifts, this inability for adolescents to fall asleep at night and their need to sleep in the morning, actually does shift back in adulthood," she said.

"This is a shift that occurs during adolescence and then shifts back. So we are looking at it as, we need to do the best for our children that is at that age group at this time."

But there are logistical concerns, too — especially for any parents who drive their children to school and need to be at work earlier than schools start times.

C.C. Loughlin changing as well

"No matter what start time we use, it's not going to be perfect for all families, and it's never our intent to make it challenging for families, but we are the people, we are the adults that are charged with the responsibility of creating the best learning conditions for students, so we take that role very seriously," she said.

Miller Fry said she has also heard from parents who are in favour of the change.

The district is testing the rollback in Corner Brook because it owns the busing department in the town, making it easier to co-ordinate the change, said Miller Fry. 

Because of the area's busing needs, the change in times for the junior high and high schools is also prompting a change at C.C. Loughlin School as well, which will shift its start time 20 minutes, said Miller Fry, from 8:20 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show