MILLBURY — When students report for in-person classes Tuesday, their schedules will be flipped.

The board decided in spring 2019 to change the times that elementary and middle school/high school students report to school.

This academic year, the older students, starting with fifth grade, will go to school from 8:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The younger ones will go from 8:10 a.m.-2:40 p.m.

The former times were 7:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for the middle and high schools and 8:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m. for the elementary.

“We’re going forward with it,” said Superintendent Jim Witt after the August board of education meeting.

The plan is to give older children a chance to sleep later.

“I think right now if you ask if any high school kid, ‘do you want to get up earlier or sleep late,’ sleep later gets more votes,” said Lee Herman, Lake High School principal.

Herman said there was little discussion about postponing the time flip due to coronavirus schedule upheavals.

“The plan was already in the works and I don’t know that a pandemic changes that,” he said.

When Witt presented the plan to the community in March 2019, he said that the biggest factor to change the time is the research on the circadian rhythm and puberty. During puberty, this clock shifts by two hours, so teens’ bodies want to stay up longer and sleep later.

He referred to a University of Minnesota study which said a later start for high school students had graduation rates improve from 79 to 88% in two years, attendance increase and achievement gaps close. Students are less likely to have symptoms of depression, fall asleep in class and need caffeine, Witt said.

When Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming changed their start times, car crashes involving teen drivers dropped by 70%. Also, eight hours of sleep per night equals 68% of student-athletes less likely to be injured.

“I think the research supports it,” Herman said.

Lake students start in-person classes Tuesday. The later date was announced earlier in August after Gov. Mike DeWine mandated masks in schools. Before then, Lake did not have a face covering requirement.

Witt said the concern is that Lake Elementary does not have air conditioning. The later start will hopefully help with temperatures, but he said he will consider closing earlier if there is a very warm day in September.

“We’ve talked about that. If it gets too bad, we would — for the safety of those elementary students and the staff,” Witt said.

Board member Brad Blandin asked what plans are in place for transitional grades, such as fourth to fifth grade, which is middle school at Lake, and kindergarten.

Kindergarten will have a staggered start because no testing was able to be done in the spring due to the coronavirus shutdown, said Jodi Takats, curriculum director and special education gifted services coordinator.

Fifth graders will also get extra attention.

“The first day, when we’re back in session, we’re going to be doing tours and working on locks, and doing the things we normally would have done at the end of fourth grade,” Takats said. “The first day’s going to look very different in the middle school than it has in the past.”

Witt said the administration did consider putting together a virtual tour of the schools, but decided against it due to safety.

“We’ll just do it in person, with our teachers,” Takats said.

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