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Thunder Bay Catholic high school students could catch some extra shuteye in the morning.
The Lakehead Public School Board made the switch to the later start time of 9:30 a.m. for its high school students about nine years ago, but the District Catholic School Board has yet to make that change.
Reut Gruber, a psychiatry professor at McGill University, told CBC National News that students going through puberty produce the hormone melatonin later. That hormone tells someone when to go to sleep but the signal to wake up is also set later, he said. This, he concludes, means high school students could benefit from starting the school day later.
Joan Powell, director of education for the Catholic School Board, said they are bringing in mental health leader and nurses and will have a bigger focus on student mental health. She said she expected the change to a 9:30 a.m. start would be one of the suggestions.
“It probably has a certain amount of merit,” Powell said. “Having been a teenager myself, I remember how difficult it was getting up in the morning. If this is one of the things we need to look at to help students then we certainly will.”
One of the biggest challenges in implementing the time change will be scheduling buses.
Powell said all three local boards use the same buses for both high school and elementary school so it will take some time before they could implement the change. Although it could take some time to hammer out all the details, she guessed the change could start as soon as next September.
“It really depends on how our conversations go,” she said. “We could decide to work it in different ways.”
Catherine Siemieniuk, director of education for the Lakehead Public School Board, said they made the switch because they wanted to make school life better for students but also how to be more efficient with transportation.
With almost a decade of having a later start, Siemieniuk said so far it’s been a successful switch.
“We don’t have hard data but we do have positive recognition that the start time is something our students like,” Siemieniuk said.
“We wouldn’t want to be starting any later than that at this point. Students are concerned about extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs. We can still at 9:30 a.m. get them out at 3:30 p.m. because we shortened the lunch. That still allows for the extra-curricular activities and part-time work.”
She added if new research showed 10 a.m. was a better time for students to start school they would revisit the idea of changing the start time.
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