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Student-led group called Tacoma Sleepyheads pushes for a later high school bell time

Ashley Gross
Connar Mon, 15, is going into his freshman year at Tacoma's Science and Math Institute and is one of the students leading the grassroots campaign for a later high school start time.

Seattle adopted a later start time for high school several years ago and a recent study showed that students benefited by getting more sleep. They even got better grades.

Now, a group of teenagers in Tacoma is pushing for their schools to make the switch. They’ve launched a grassroots campaign that they’re calling Tacoma Sleepyheads.

Connar Mon is 15 years old and heading into his freshman year at Tacoma's Science and Math Institute. He's leading the charge to push for a later high school start time. Mon said there's a growing body of research showing positive effects from letting teenagers start school later to better correspond with their body clocks. It’s something that the American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed.

“It just gets people no longer exhausted in the morning and just ready to learn,” Mon said. “You don’t want a sleepy student to be going to school, because teachers do express their concerns that students would fall asleep in class.”

He and some of his friends already have spoken at a Tacoma school board meeting. They’ve won vocal support from Board Director Enrique Leon, who is a family physician.

Many Tacoma high schools start around 7:30 a.m., and elementary schools start around 8:55. The Tacoma Sleepyheads group is pushing to move the high school bell time to 8:45.

Mon said switching bell times so that elementary schools start earlier and high schools start later could benefit working parents who have older and younger children.

“If the high schooler can bring the elementary student to school and take that responsibility away from the parent, the parent would have more time to go to work,” Mon said.

Mon and his friends have been busy rallying support through social media. They plan to gather signatures for a petition once school starts again in the fall.

Dan Voelpel, a spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools, said that Superintendent Carla Santorno has requested information from Seattle Public Schools about their bell time change, but that there's no initiative underway in Tacoma to explore changing school start times.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.