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Study: Later high school start times have benefits

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- New research shows later high school start times may actually be a good thing for students.

The University of Minnesota study shows giving students extra time to sleep in the morning can lead to better mental health, fewer car accidents, and in some instances, better grades.

Most high schools here in the borderland start between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Jojo Sarmiento, a sophomore from El Paso, starts school every day at 8:15 a.m.

He often works on homework two hours every night, but he said he cannot stay up too late because he has to get up early.

"I get to school and like my first period I'm tired but like by the end of the day I'm even more tired than before," Sarmiento said.

Sleep doctors said teenagers like Sarmiento have certain sleep hormones that don't make them tired until after 11 p.m.

Xavier De La Torre, superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District, has worked in school districts in California where high schools started anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

"It think there is great truth to that," De La Torre said. "If you ask administrators of middle schools and high schools, sometimes students need time to get excited and engaged about their education."

But if you're starting later, that also means kids won't get out until later too.

"If your school day is already ending at 3:45 p.m. or 4:00 p.m, then it really limits the amount of time that coaches and clubs have available for practice and for meetings," De La Torre said.

De La Torre said the start times can have a lot to do with the demographics and what time is better for families.

"I think in the El Paso community, I think our test scores demonstrate that the time we start the day isn't having an adverse or detrimental effect on student learning," De La Torre said.

De La Torre said YISD would consider changing their start times if there was an interest shown by parents.

Canutillo Independent School District said their high schools start at least a half hour later than their elementary and middle schools.

"We're aware of those studies and that teenagers specifically do better when they get more sleep and when they wake up later," said Gustavo Reveles, spokesperson for CISD.

El Paso Independent Schools said their high schools have started at 8:45 a.m. for the last several years.

A spokesperson with EPISD said they moved the start time for high schools was adjusted due to bus scheduling.

Socorro ISD said their secondary schools start at 8:15 a.m.

A spokesperson with SISD said they would not consider changing their start times.