Survey: District 220 students were sleepy and driving drowsy last year

Lack of optimum sleep and drowsy driving to high school were among problems reported by students in a survey compiled by Barrington Area Unit District 220 officials who will track the data to gauge the effects of new start times.

What's described as baseline data was culled from questions mostly answered by middle school students through those in junior year of Barrington High School before the 2016-17 academic year ended, along with certified teachers. The survey results were released at Tuesday night's school board meeting came from the middle and high schools.

Officials said the data will be used to make comparisons to the 2016-17 start times.

District 220 serves about 8,900 students in kindergarten through high school in 12 buildings. High school and middle school students are beginning later, with the younger children starting earlier, in a move that officials said was pursued in an effort to boost academic performance.

Sleep patterns and habits were addressed in the surveys. John Bruesch, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said only 18 percent of middle and high school students combined reported getting an optimal 8½ to 9 hours of sleep.

"This is really the staggering one here, though," Bruesch said. "At the high school level, only 6 percent of our students at the high school are reporting optimal sleep. And roughly 50 percent of them are reporting getting 6½ hours or less of sleep per night, which affects all manner of things, from behavior in and out of the classroom to readiness to learn to test-taking ability."

Survey results showed 1,186 Barrington High students reported driving to school one or more days a week. About 55 percent of the respondents said they drove to school while drowsy three or more times per week.

Bruesch said 12 percent of the teenagers reported falling asleep when driving to Barrington High.

"Those are some disturbing statistics when you think about our teens driving to school in and around the community to BHS to learn," he said.

Barrington High students now begin at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:20 a.m. District 220's two middle schools start at 9 a.m. instead of 7:55 a.m., with the elementary buildings beginning an hour earlier at 8 a.m.

Research from experts who presented at the Adolescent Sleep, Health and School Start Times National Conference this year in Washington, D.C., showed teenagers' brains during adolescence have a shift in their sleep-wake cycles due to developmental changes that signal when to feel tired. That means teens cannot fall asleep before about 10:45 p.m., and they remain the sleep mode until roughly 8 a.m.

Elementary schoolchildren are biologically capable of falling asleep in early evening and rising early without ill effects, according the conference experts. District 220 representatives attended the conference.

Barrington District 220 compiling data to study effectiveness of new start times

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