NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Will a later school start time provide better outcomes for school students? One Nashville lawmaker thinks so and says schools should return to an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day across Tennessee.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) says it makes sense to ensure children aren’t restless in schools and says he has science to back up his proposal. “The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the US Surgeon General’s office, the American Academy of Pediatrics, you know, a whole host of healthcare organizations, the National PTA Association,” Clemmons listed.
Clemmons filed the bill aimed at ensuring academic success by requiring classroom instruction to begin at 8:30 AM for high schoolers and 8:00 AM for middle schoolers. “My priorities are improving students’ educational opportunities and performance and outcomes, as well as, protecting and improving students’ health and well-being,” Clemmons said.
According to the CDC, they agree, saying middle and high schoolers start the school day too early. Teens need at least eight hours of sleep per night and younger students need at least nine hours.
“Governor Lee is talking about something that I disagree with, which is tying school funding to school performance and test scores. Well, the science says students perform better and test better if they have adequate sleep, if they’re rested and if they’re not hungry,” he said.
However, Republican Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton is balking at the initial idea. “There may be very good reasons why they want to start at 7:05, I’m not sure, but I think it needs to be left to their decision on what they think and allow them to make that determination for themselves,” Sexton said.
“For decades school went from 8 o’clock to 3 o’clock, that’s still possible, all of the challenges and inconveniences that any school district might face can be overcome. Our state is sitting on billions of dollars, we can provide better school transportation, we can pay bus drivers more,” Clemmons said.
Clemmons is also filing a bill to make sure no student goes hungry at school.
“Here we are in 2022 and students are still having to pay for their meals. Our students have to be in school, we mandate that by law — let’s take one more step to help ensure their performance in the classroom by eliminating any possible hunger issues and make all school-based meals free of charge,” he added.
According to the CDC, students who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, not get enough physical activity, suffer from depression, engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, or using drugs as well as perform poorly in school.