Barrington High grad leading effort for later school start times

  • Eric Albrecht, 30, of Bloomingdale, advocacy program manager for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, hopes middle and high schools nationwide will implement later start times based on scientific research showing that students need more sleep. He is a graduate of Barrington High School.

    Eric Albrecht, 30, of Bloomingdale, advocacy program manager for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, hopes middle and high schools nationwide will implement later start times based on scientific research showing that students need more sleep. He is a graduate of Barrington High School. Courtesy of Eric Albrecht

 
 
Posted9/23/2020 1:54 PM

Eric Albrecht remembers well getting to the bus stop by 6:30 a.m., sleepy and tired, to attend classes at Barrington High School.

The district has since done what Albrecht, now 30 years old and advocacy program manager for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, hopes middle and high schools nationwide will do: implement later start times based on scientific research showing that older students need more sleep.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Albrecht, who lives in Bloomingdale, helped initiate and co-write a bipartisan resolution developed by the Academy to designate the third week of September as National Student Sleep Health Week.

The resolution was introduced Sept. 11 in the U.S. House by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, with primary co-sponsor Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of downstate Illinois.

Seventy-five percent of high school students report getting insufficient sleep on school nights, which negatively affects their health -- both mental and physical -- and their ability to concentrate and learn properly, according to the Academy.

Teenagers should get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, Albrecht said. Also, youths in their later teen years are biologically predisposed to staying up later, such as 11 p.m. or midnight, compared to younger kids who are able to go to sleep earlier, he said. For all those reasons, later school start times for older kids make perfect sense, he said.

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The Academy advocates start times after 8:30 a.m. for middle and high school. "That has been a big passion for our membership," he said.

The goal is to drive public policy and legislative changes so that later school start times are mandated by law, he said.

One model is California, which passed a bill that mandates that by July 1, 2022, high school will start after 8:30 a.m. and middle school will start after 8 a.m., he said.

Albrecht, who graduated from Barrington High in 2008 and Indiana University in 2012, said there's been no movement among Illinois lawmakers to implement later school start times. Some school districts, typically wealthier ones with parents who are actively engaged in things like PTOs, have tackled the issue, but then it becomes an educational disparity issue, he said.

"That's why it's important to have legislative action for school start times."

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