Upper School students are arriving at St. Luke’s a bit more well-rested. Our school pushed start times for grades 9-12 back from 8am to 8:30am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and continued a 9am start on Tuesday and Thursday.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8:30 am is the earliest recommended start time. Even though a half hour doesn’t seem like much, the effects of a gentler on-ramp to your day are significant. In the words of ninth-grader Ellie Lyon: "That little bit of extra time in the morning makes a huge difference. I sleep a little bit later and I actually have time to eat breakfast."
The New York Times article, "Let Teens Sleep," makes clear that, particularly after puberty, every minute matters: “Starting schools before 8:30 a.m. shows a tragic disregard for both the mental health of children and for science. . . Insufficient sleep results in reduced attention and impaired memory, hindering student progress and lowering grades. More alarmingly, sleep deprivation is likely to lead to mood and emotional problems, increasing the risk of mental illness.”
Our decision to move to a late start is part of a broad effort to value student well-being as much as achievement. This is the third year we’ll have twelve no-homework nights and no homework over school vacations—a policy introduced after students identified excessive homework as their greatest sources of stress.
We’re not trying to eliminate stress or hard work. As Dr. Lisa Damour recently reminded our Upper School students, stress is part of life. It’s how you recover from stress, she pointed out, that matters. We want students to stretch and grow. We just don’t want them to snap. If they learn now that everyone needs to rest and take breaks in order to come back stronger, then we’ll have given them great coping skills for college and life.
St. Luke’s Head of School Mark Davis summed up the decision to change start times: “We did the research. We saw the facts. And we made a decision that serves children better. The well-being of our students trumps everything else. If we want them to thrive we need to consistently evaluate our culture and ask: Is what we’re doing good for students?”
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.
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