School Will Now Start Much Later In One Major City

One school district is moving high school start time way back. The kids are happy, but parents and teachers aren't.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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school start time

Teenagers in the City of Brotherly love are likely rejoicing over a breaking news announcement in regards to public school. Starting next fall, high schools in Philadelphia will push back their school start time to 9 am. The move comes from the district as a matter to improve several aspects in the city’s public schools.

The school start time pushback will affect all high schools in Philadelphia except for four of them that are attached to partner institutions. High schools with middle grades will also see the time change. However, pre-k programs and elementary schools will not have their start time affected. In a letter, the district informed parents they will host a number of information sessions for students and families in the upcoming weeks.

school start time

The district decided to push back its school start time to help their oldest students get more sleep and give teens the opportunity to arrive in the classroom well-rested and more prepared to learn. There has been a big drive around the nation to push back school start times. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both released publications recommending that schools start later. The research supports better mental health and grade improvement.

Another reason for the change in the school start time in Philadelphia is to make travel safer. Staggering the start times may indeed make a difference in commute times, but the district did not point out how exactly a later start time would actually make travel any safer. But given that most city commutes see the worst rush hour traffic before 8 am, it may make a difference. 

school start time

The district announced that part of the reason is to change in school start time in an effort to balance out bus driver shortages. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the district changed most middle and high schools’ start times earlier to 7:30 am in order to combat bus driver shortages. It’s understandable that parents would be so upset about the district’s reversing stance on when school should start. 

While the shift in school start time may find some high school students crowing, not everyone is happy with the move. Parents may have to find alternative transport next year. Similarly, the drop-off time might cut into parents’ work schedules. Others are noting that later start times push the dismissal bell back to 4 pm. This could impact older students who depend on after-school jobs as well. 

Philadelphia teachers unions are also not happy with the move to push back school start time either. According to the union, the schedule change goes against contractually outlined procedures. They shared this information in a Tweet with the relevant contract language captured in a screenshot. They never came out and specifically said what the issue is, but it likely has something to do with the wording that states that the Principal in each school is responsible for setting the master schedule. 

Across the country, more schools are pushing back the school start time in accordance with certified research. But overall, most districts have been sluggish at adhering to the advice of professionals. According to a report, only about 17% of U.S high schools start at 8:30 am or later. The average start time for high schools across the nation is 8 am.