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Some students in Bellingham will have to get up earlier, while others get to sleep in a bit

New Options High School building has some amazing spaces for students

Options High School opened its new building to Bellingham students on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
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Options High School opened its new building to Bellingham students on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.

The controversial change to start and end times for elementary and high school students in Bellingham Public Schools got underway Wednesday with the first day of classes.

Here are the new schedules, just in case you need a reminder:

▪  Elementary schools will start 30 minutes earlier at 8 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Last year’s schedule was 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

▪  High schools will start 45 minutes later at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. The old schedule was 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

▪  Middle schools will stay on the same schedule of 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Bellingham School District has about 11,000 students.

A proposal presented to parents and students last spring received mixed reviews. One of the main sticking points was a 7:45 a.m. proposed start time for elementary school students that many parents thought was too early.

The district withdrew that plan and officials altered it in response to comments from parents.

Superintendent Greg Baker said the schedule change will allow flexibility for more electives and course offerings at the high school level, which is needed given increasing graduation requirements.

Baker has said the district has been working on pushing back start times for the higher grades for more than three years.

While Baker said elementary school students are usually the ones up the earliest, some parents of those children said they already have a hard time getting their kids up and out the door for the 8:30 a.m. start time. Others said they wouldn’t be able to afford the additional child care costs associated with the change.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is one of the groups leading a national charge for a later start, saying teens are chronically sleep-deprived and that middle and high school classes should begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The association and medical studies have determined sleep cycles shift up to two hours later during puberty.

However, early start times also are linked to lower overall grades, increased obesity and depression and more car crashes from tired students driving, studies have indicated.

About 40 percent of high schools in the U.S. had start times before 8 a.m. and only 15 percent started at 8:30 a.m. or later, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in August 2014, when it issued its recommendation for later start times.

The median middle school start time was 8 a.m., the academy said at the time, and more than 20 percent of middle schools start at 7:45 a.m. or earlier.

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