ACTIVE LEARNING: Olympic High students take part in a drama class. (Brandon Wise
ACTIVE LEARNING: Olympic High students take part in a drama class. (Brandon Wise

OLYMPIC HIGH — Students at Olympic High School are getting some good use out of their snooze buttons.

From Jan. 13 through Feb. 7 classes start at 9:15 a.m., about an hour later than usual, as a part of a pilot program that takes seriously the notion that teens need more sleep.

“We’re testing this schedule in order to find out if the later start time will help our students to improve their attendance and allow them to catch up on their credits more quickly,” said student Amanda Huffman, who represents Olympic High at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meetings.

Adolescents need more sleep and tend to go to sleep later than adults, research from the National Sleep Foundation shows. Teens need more than nine hours of sleep a night. Their biological sleep patterns shift toward later times and they often struggle to fall asleep until after 11 p.m.

This limits a teen’s ability to listen and learn, the Sleep Foundation found. It also leads to more pimples.

A 2004 study, referenced by the National Sleep Foundation, showed that students attending schools that opened earlier than others were arriving late four times as much as those who were going to class later. The same study showed that grades were worse among students whose schools started earlier.

Olympic High officials decided to try shifting the class schedules with this research in mind.

Olympic High is a continuation high school that offers programs for students who have struggled to stay in school. One hundred students are enrolled at Olympic High this year.

Despite the late opening, teachers and staff are on campus during regularly contracted hours in case students want to show up at the usual start time. Class now lets out at 2:49 p.m.

“I think this time experiment is very interesting,” Boardmember Ben Allen said. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while: Why it is that we make teenagers wake up several hours earlier than adults even though they’re more biologically predisposed to sleep in?”

Boardmember Oscar de la Torre suggested that the changes could also allow for staggered class schedules leading to decreased class sizes.

“That might be something worth studying, not just at Olympic but also at Santa Monica High School,” he said.

de la Torre is optimistic about the flexible schedule and stressed that it’s important for students to have these kinds of options.

It’s too early to tell if the schedule is working, Huffman said.

“Now it’s kind of weird because it’s the first week and people are still getting used to it,” she said. “A lot of people still come in early because they get dropped off at an early time by their parents.”

Students who come in early either relax in the hallway or work with teachers before school starts, she said.

“Lunch is starting later though so people are getting really hungry,” she said, laughing. “They’re used to eating before. Other than that it’s not bad.”

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