Alek Joyce wouldn't have wanted Free State High School to start later in the day — even if it held the promise of extra sleep.
"If it means staying in class until 4 p.m. or later, no," said Joyce, a Free State graduate now attending Kansas University. "I really wanted to leave FSHS by 3 p.m. already."
Area school officials are pondering the pros and cons of later start times after the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report this week recommending that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later so students are better rested for class.
The report said that when teens, whose natural sleep cycles often prevent them from falling asleep before 11 p.m., don't get enough rest, they are at risk for diminished academic performance, physical and mental health issues and a higher possibility of car accidents.
"I think it is something that we could talk about," said Shannon Kimball, president of the Lawrence school board. "But I know there are issues we have to balance when making decisions about start times for our schools."
She said bus routes would have to be a consideration, as would whether later start times (and thus later dismissals) would interfere with students' after-school activities and jobs. Lawrence middle schools currently start at 8:08 a.m., while the two high schools begin their days at 8:05 a.m.
Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorathy said later start times for middle and high schools would affect all of his district's students, who ride on the same buses. Currently, Baldwin City's high school starts at 8 a.m., while its junior high begins at 8:03 a.m.
He said he has heard from both parents who think school should start later and those who believe it should begin earlier.
"There's always been research that says kids that are well-rested do better on testing, do better on homework and are more attentive at school," he said. "But there are other factors."
Those include what would happen to students whose parents go to work early in the morning and would need to find childcare for them, he said.
Kevin Kohls, a teacher who lives in Lawrence, said schools, not doctors, should decide how to educate students.
"Starting later means after-school activities start later so kids get home later and have to stay up later to do homework," he said. "Plus, those kids who leave on activity and athletic trips before the day ends would end up missing more class."
Eudora middle and high schools start at 8:10 a.m. But, like the Lawrence and Baldwin City districts, it has no immediate plans to alter its start times. Eudora Superintendent Steve Splichal said students' sleep habits should also be analyzed.
"Are they staying up exceedingly late either by their choice or because of work or homework or playing? What are parents doing on their end in encouraging students to have a good sleep schedule?" he said. "I think the report will certainly spawn conversation, but I think there are some factors that are not being taken into account."