Some CCSD families prepare for earlier start time due to bus driver shortage, experts share a warning

Get your alarm clocks ready: several Clark County schools are preparing for big changes to their bell schedules this upcoming school year.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:23 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Get your alarm clocks ready: several Clark County schools are preparing for big changes to their bell schedules this upcoming school year, and with one week until classes start, experts encourage parents to get their students acclimated now to their new sleep schedule.

Clark County School District announced early this year that they would be changing the start times at hundreds of schools across the district due to a shortage of bus drivers. By shifting the start times, their hope is to optimize bus routes and improve pick-up and drop-off times.

The idea of waking up so early, however, is becoming a big concern for some families in the Las Vegas valley — especially those of high school students.

“I don’t go to bed at 8 normally,” said Delenn Flory, a sophomore at Coronado High School in Henderson.

Last school year, the high school student started school at 8 a.m., but starting in one week, “it’ll start at 7 am. Unless you have early bird classes, and then you start at 6 a.m.,” said Flory.

That will mean Flory will have to get up around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.

She added, “in order for me to be able to make it to my bus, since I have to walk to my bus stop.”

She said she is worried that the earlier start time will affect her and her peers’ mental health and academic performances.

“In the morning we’ll be more tired, and already with the start time that we had last year, a lot of people-- in the first or second period-- they tended to be more sluggish,” said Flory. “A lot of my friends will go to bed closer to like 11 naturally.”

She is not the only one sounding the alarm.

“So if they’re going to bed at 11, they’re only getting like five and a half hours of sleep. Uh-uh, not cool!” said Dr. Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, FAAP, Member Executive Committee Section on Integrative Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidance saying, compared to children, teens have more difficulty with getting to bed at night at a time that is reasonable for the proper amount of sleep. Breuner said she recommends teenagers are given a school start time no earlier than 8:45 a.m. in most districts.

“We know this from years and years and years of very very well-researched, supported hypotheses that have been firmed up,” said Breuner. “So, what happens during adolescence is that they’re tired later! So their circadian clock kicks in around 12, 13 [years of age], so they start not being tired at 8 or 9 [p.m.] like a toddler is. They don’t have surges of growth hormone or melatonin until 9 or 10,” said Dr. Breuner. “We see actually higher numbers of depression and anxiety in kids who don’t get enough sleep.”

Mental health experts like Nevada’s own Dr. Sheldon Jacobs is advising parents to begin their school routine now so as to minimize stress and anxiety at the start of the school year.

“Eight to 10 hours of sleep -- all of us need eight to 10 hours of sleep,” said Dr. Breuner.

Nevada PTA President Rebecca Garcia said the topic of early start times is a polarizing issue within the district, because for her family, for example, her teenagers enjoy waking up early.

“Early start times for our high schoolers get them out early,” said Garcia.

She said she hopes parents will ensure their students get to bed early so they can get the proper sleep they need.

“Kids need sleep. And I think that’s where parents need to make sure that-- regardless of which time your kid starts school-- that you, as a parent, are monitoring their sleep hygiene,” said Garcia.

She also wants to remind families of the very critical reason why CCSD made the changes in the first place.

“Lack of transportation,” she said. “Delayed buses, or no buses showing up at all. Transportation was a massive concern for families all last year.”

California recently made legislative changes on start times: this school year, California high schools will be prohibited from starting classes before 8:30 a.m.