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Should Ohio law force public schools to have later start times?

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Posted at 2:13 AM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 09:17:28-04

MASON, Ohio  — As a freshman at Mason High School, Ellie Rogan starts school at 7:45 a.m.

"I would like 8:30 a lot better," Rogan says.

An Ohio lawmaker wants to push back the start time for all public schools to at least 8:30 a.m.

It’s a controversial idea that has parents, students and districts divided. Even at Mason, which pushed back its start times this school year in the interest of giving students more sleep and enhancing their mental health.

But Mason officials said a state-imposed move to even later start times would create more problems, including increasing costs.

Rogan already makes every second count -- from classes to jump rope practice with the Comet Skippers.

But there’s hardly enough time in the day for everything she does.

"My practices end at like 9 p.m.,” Rogan said. “Then I have to get home and shower and sometimes I have homework."

Rogan would like more time to sleep in the morning, and Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland wants to give it to her. Williams' Ohio Senate Bill 218 would require all public schools to start no earlier than 8:30.

Rogan’s mom and other parents we spoke to are on board.

"Especially teenagers, with their sleep rhythms,” said Carrie Rogan. “They sleep their best sleep of the day and the most regenerative early hours."

There are also issues with students walking to school or walking to bus stops.

"It's still really dark in the morning depending on the time of year, which for me is a safety issue," parent Angie James said.

But Mason City School officials aren't so sure an 8:30 a.m. start time for everyone is the best move.

"Local control is so important," said district spokesperson Tracey Carson.

Mason City Schools pushed school start times back by half an hour this year but say that decision should be handled on a district by district basis.

"We would have kids getting home at 5:30 in the evening. That's just so late for our earliest learners,” Carson said. “So we would have to go to a two-tier system, which would probably cost us at least a million dollars more a year."

In introducing the bill, Williams said children walking to school in the dark is her primary concern. There isn't a provision for parents who drop off their kids on the way to work, but Williams says she is open to that option.

Tell what you think about early school start times. Call the Feedback Friday Hotline at (513) 852-4998.