Middle schools in Long Beach will start their day an hour later, at 9 a.m., the city school board voted Monday, a move that will cut transportation costs and give students the extra sleep that researchers say they need, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Students at all of the district’s middle schools will start class at 9 a.m. and get out at 3:40 p.m., beginning in the fall.

A proposal that would have also pushed back the start time at Long Beach high schools was not approved. But the board did agree to test the idea by introducing a later start at McBride High School, a new school opening in the fall. Students at McBride will start the day at 8:50 a.m. and let out at 3:40 p.m. Other high schools in the district begin at 7:50 a.m. and are dismissed at 2:40 p.m., the newspaper reported.

The later start time at middle schools will save the district about $1 million in transportation costs through staggered pick-up and drop-off times, according to Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser.

Districts that made similar schedule changes also said their students did better in class and had fewer discipline problems, Steinhauser told the school board.

In a 2010 study funded by the National Science Foundation, Mona El-Sheikh, a professor of child development at Auburn University, found that children who don’t get enough sleep struggle academically and socially. “They do not concentrate as well or perform well on tasks that are complex,” El-Sheikh said in a National Science Foundation article. “Even worse, they may be more likely to be depressed, sick or obese. Sleep is very important for brain development and also for emotional regulation.”

Sleep matters most to children who live in economically depressed areas, she said. “Children, especially those who live in poor neighborhoods and come from more economically disadvantaged homes tend, to benefit more when they sleep better and tend to suffer more when their sleep is poor,” she said.


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