GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study recommending that secondary schools start later to combat teen sleep deprivation.
According to the study, if students can stick to their normal sleep schedule and go to bed around 11 P.M., then they should be able to do better in school and avoid more car accidents.
FOX 17 visited students during their first day of school at Nexus Academy of Grand Rapids, a public charter high school that offers afternoon classes that start at 12:30 P.M.
Nexus Academy is an accredited high school that gives students a basic choice: when do they want to wake up? Students either go to school from 8 A.M. until noon, or from 12:30 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Principal Dan McMinn said it may be contrary to popular belief, but the morning session is more popular.
“A lot of kids will argue about not wanting to get up in the morning, but what we end up seeing is that a lot are still filling up our morning session, which is almost at capacity now,” said McMinn.
As of the first day of class, McMinn said about 130 students are enrolled in the morning session, whereas the afternoon enrollment is at about 40 students.
Students like upper classman Seth Balwin told FOX 17 that afternoon class was the option that fit his busy schedule. Balwin is also a part of the Kent Intermediate School District’s Career Technical Center, and learns about computer programming.
“It’s not about sleeping in,” said Balwin. “There’s always going to be some students that say, ‘oh I can sleep in,’ but for the most part it’s kids who have a different schedule, or they’re just not as good with people, because it is a smaller session.”
Instead of a regular class schedule, the entire learning program is virtual. Students have a daily digital planner, and only English, math, and physical training is offered on site.
“Students that come here are the ones that are really motivated to get things accomplished,” said McMinn. “They’re working hard to achieve those goals. So what our job is as a staff is really to support the students in what they’re doing.”
For students like Balwin, this open individualized setting works.
“If I get stuck on one thing and I can’t contact my teacher, I can work on my other classes and get ahead in those,” said Balwin. “So while I may be a day or two behind in one class, I may be a few days ahead in all my other classes, so that I can then focus on my one class that I’m stuck in. It’s just truly amazing.”
Students are working towards earning their high school diploma, and many like Balwin are on a college track.
So while the 12:30 P.M. start option sounds good in theory to sleep in, McMinn said a lot of students are busy with jobs, other classes, or taking care of their families.
The school’s enrollment capacity is 300 students, they are a school of choice, and have open enrollment.