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Oklahoma high schoolers in local district get to sleep in

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- As national studies show teenagers need more sleep, high school students in the Millwood School District will get a later start to their school days.

Beginning this year, the high school and middle school will start classes at 8:25 a.m., instead of 7:40 a.m.

"Does an hour make a difference? Yes, an hour makes a huge difference," said Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods. "We do expect the high schoolers will come more prepared."

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows only a third of high school students get the recommended eight hours of sleep on a school night.  According to the report, kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to use drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

The average start time in the United States is 8:03 a.m.  In Oklahoma, it's 8:10 a.m.

More than 75 percent of public schools in Oklahoma started before 8:30 a.m., according to the CDC report.  But this year, Millwood is moving closer to that mark.

"Bright eyed and bushy tailed? I don't know that many high school students come to school bright eyed and bushy tailed ever," said Robinson-Woods. "But we're expecting that they will like the change and like I said it will give them some more freedoms and flexibilities in what they do before school and after school."

With an extra hour in the morning, many students will be able to receive tutoring from their teachers, said Robinson-Woods, especially in a district where many students participate in extra-curricular activities.  Students will also have more time to have breakfast before class while still having time for their afternoon activities.

"I think it will actually be good for those of us who play sports because say you have a late game the day before, you won't need to get up as early," said Nykiah Hines, a senior who plays on the softball team. "Last year a lot of the kids did complain and a lot of the kids were not on time for school, so now that we're starting later, a lot of the kids are more excited about it, they can sleep in and can make it to school on time."

The elementary school, meanwhile, will start earlier -- at 7:55 a.m. instead of 8:40 a.m.

That decision also comes from national research, Robinson-Woods said, which shows younger students perform better earlier in the day.

"The effects of that is they will be more alert and aware and they'll be able to take in more with a fresh start," said Jasmyne Easter, an instructor who evaluates teachers at the school and specializes in reading. "There's a freshness to the day as opposed to later in the afternoon when they might be tired."

The administration says younger students will especially benefit during an earlier 90-minute reading block.

"Having kids, young kids, ready and fresh first thing ... I think will really support our reading growth," said Robinson-Woods.

But some parents are worried about the changes -- particularly the logistics of dropping off and picking up two children from different schools at different times.

"It'll be a challenge for me but it seems like I don't really have a choice," said Kimberly Streeter, who has kids in the 2nd grade and 7th grade. "We're just going to have to do everything early: getting up early, preparing breakfast early."

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