Burlington City, N.J., schools to push back start times by 20 minutes

Students leave Burlington City High School at the end of the school day.

Students leave Burlington City High School at the end of the school day. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In September 2018, most of Burlington City’s schools in New Jersey will start 20 minutes later.

Making the change took administrators about three years, said James Flynn, principal of Burlington City High School. The district wants to push back the school start time even more after parents and kids get used to starting later, he said.

“We absolutely believe the extra 20 minutes will make a difference on a daily basis — and over time — for the health of our students and for their student achievement,” he said.

A few years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended delaying start times for middle and high school students to  improve their academic performance, as well as enhancing their physical and mental health.  When teens get more sleep, they perform better in school, according to researchers. And adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering from depression.

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Sophomore Faiza Hoque, who said she’ll be grateful for that extra 20 minutes, said it’s a good start.

Faiza lives in a different township, so she has to catch a bus before the sun comes up.

“When I reach school, it’s dark out,” she said. “Sometimes the gates aren’t open, and not a lot of people are here.”

Lots of school district officials balk at later start times out of a fear that it will throw a wrench into scheduling extracurricular activities. But Flynn said that in two different districts that have adopted the change, student participation in afterschool programs has actually gone up.

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